Regional cooperation highly needs in tackling Mocha type disasters
By: Dr Arpita Hazarika
Myanmar is one of Bangladesh’s closest neighbours, and the two countries have had a long-standing relationship dating back generations. The 271-kilometer Bangladesh-Myanmar border is strategically significant for Bangladesh, despite the fact that it is militarized due to Myanmar’s continuous internal strife.
Relations between Bangladesh and Myanmar were formalized on January 13, 1972, when Myanmar, as the sixth state, recognized Bangladesh as an independent entity. However, due to the presence of several unresolved issues such as Rohingya refugees and maritime border demarcation, the scene has changed in an unfavourable way, and ties between these two neighbours have not always been as friendly as envisioned. But this time, they need to come closer on the environmental front. Cyclone Mocha wreaks havoc in Myanmar, Bangladesh.
On May 14, the Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm ‘Mocha’ hit the coastlines of Bangladesh and Myanmar, bringing with it heavy rains and high-velocity winds with a speed of 1ss95 kmph. Cyclone Mocha, which was described as the second-most severe storm to form in the Bay of Bengal since 1982 and made landfall on Sunday (May 15) afternoon in Bangladesh and Myanmar’s Rakhine state near Sittwe township, tore off roofs and killed at least five people. According to media reports, Cyclone Mocha wrought devastation in Myanmar by damaging buildings, turning streets into rivers, uprooting trees, and flooding the coastal city of Sittwe.
In its most recent advisory, the IMD (Indian Meteorological Department) said that cyclone Mocha had become a cyclonic storm over Myanmar. There is also High alert in West Bengal as Cyclone Mocha wreaks havoc in Bangladesh.
In Bangladesh, authorities moved around 300,000 people to safer areas before the storm hit. Rohingya refugees inside densely-populated camps in the Cox’s Bazar in the southeast of the country hunkered down inside their ramshackle homes. Mocha spared a densely-populated cluster of refugee camps in low-lying neighbouring Bangladesh.
“SCS “Mocha” over Myanmar weakened into a Cyclonic Storm at 0230 hours IST of 15th May over Myanmar near latitude 23.5°N and longitude 95.3°E about 450 km NNE of Sittwe (Myanmar), 260 km of north-northeast of Nyaung-U (Myanmar) and 420 km ENE of Cox’s Bazar (Bangladesh),” the IMD said.
As a strong storm pounded the Myanmar shore, thousands of people were evacuated to temples, pagodas, and schools around the country. Local media gathered videos that demonstrated how deep water rushed through streets while wind whipped trees and tore boards off of rooftops.
Cyclone Mocha, according to forecasters, might be Bangladesh’s strongest storm in nearly two decades.
Aid agencies in Bangladesh and Myanmar say they are bracing for disaster and have launched a massive emergency plan as a powerful cyclone barrel toward millions of vulnerable people.
However, on the environmental front, the Tatmadaw and Bangladesh military, the authorities of Myanmar and Bangladesh, people from both sides may collaborate to lessen the risk of regional environmental degradation through coordinated disaster management systems, operations, and projects. Cyclone Mocha can affect both Myanmar and Bangladesh. Cyclonic Storm Sitrang was a tropical cyclone that affected India and Bangladesh on October 25, 2022. Bangladesh, India, and Myanmar could work together. Cyclone Nargis in 2008 was the best illustration of it. This natural calamity wreaked havoc on both countries’ coastlines. Both Myanmar and Bangladesh have several opportunities to work in order to lessen the risk of environmental degradation and loss.
Joint initiatives taken by the two concerned authorities; militaries can pave the way to bolster the ties between the two neighbors. Improved ties between the Bangladesh military and Myanmar military can smoothen the ties resolving the long pending issues such as the crisis of displaced persons from Rakhine who are currently living in Bangladesh, maritime dispute, border-related trans-border crimes. Basically, this could pave the way of future collaboration. On the other hand, all states must come together on the environmental front.
Countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar, which are the major victims of climate change with the worst victimization still awaiting, may work together in order to address the issues related to global environmental deterioration. Besides the major problems of poverty and illiteracy, Bangladesh and Myanmar’s vulnerability to environmental deterioration is very alarming. Basically, Tatmadaw and Bangladesh military can work together to mitigate the risk of regional environmental degradation through joint disaster management systems, operations, initiatives. Cyclone Nargis in 2008 was the best example to understand it. Both coastal countries were affected by this natural disaster. There are ample opportunities for both Myanmar and Bangladesh to work together in reducing the risk and loss of environmental degradation.
To reduce the harm brought on by the tragedies common to both nations, Myanmar and Bangladesh should work together more closely in managing and forecasting floods.
We can say that in the midst of the present disasters affecting Bangladesh’s Southern, where people are coping with their suffering and losses, Myanmar residents who live in Rakhine and Ayeyarwady regions are also having similar issues.
Environmentalists fear that climate change could cause additional disasters, especially in Bangladesh, which is heavily populated. The South Asian neighbors have recently witnessed more extreme weather, resulting in significant damage.
Myanmar and Bangladesh must offer joint help in managing the disaster as both nations’ northeastern regions are being devastated by cyclone. Information sharing is the urgent element at this time. Cooperation in this regard is required for serving the common interests.
With Myanmar and Bangladesh bearing the brunt of cyclones regularly as a result of their location in the world’s second-largest river basin, experts in both countries and international arena are emphasizing the importance of taking an “integrated approach” and “regional cooperation” to reduce the enormous economic and human costs.
Whether it be cyclone or tropical disaster, there should be a shared knowledge of the issues. Scientists from both nations, as well as perhaps India, Thailand, Sri Lanka as they are also a part of the Bay of Bengal, should work together to find answers to the issues.
Thus, China must cooperate with India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, and Sri Lanka also. China can’t remain silent on this issue. However, the deadly cyclone reminds us of the urgency of India-Bangladesh-Myanmar -Thailand-China-Sri Lanka cyclone management cooperation. To more focus, Myanmar-Bangladesh-India cooperation must in this regard.
However, Myanmar’s military should take effective steps to foster the ties. It must understand that Bangladesh is a peace-loving country and friendly neighbors. Bangladesh believes in peaceful coexistence. Thus, engagement with Bangladesh would be beneficial for Myanmar also. Friendship ties between the two neighbouring countries can assure peace, harmony, regional stability, regional greater interest, etc. in the whole regions (South Asia and Southeast Asia)
The writer is a Gauhati University, Assam, India-based researcher.