The role of extreme events in reaching adaptation tipping points: a case study of flood risk management in Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Adaptation tipping points (ATPs) refer to the situation where a policy or management strategy is no longer sufficient, and adjustments or alternative policies/strategies have to be considered. In developed countries, the main focus of research has been on characterising the occurrence of ATPs in the face of slow variables like climate change. In developing countries, the system characteristics that lead to ATPs are more uncertain and typically comprise a combination of drivers. It is well recognised that policies and management strategies have often shifted in the wake of extreme events like floods. By focusing on flood risk management (FRM), this paper explores the role of sudden or extreme events and other drivers that trigger ATPs. It analyses the historical flooding pattern of Dhaka and policies relevant to FRM, and determines the tipping points for policy-making. A timeline has been established between the flood events, co-drivers, policy interventions and institutional reforms over the last 50 years. ATPs in a developing country context have been found to result from hydrological factors and uncontrolled urban growth as well as foreign intervention, non-implementation or untimely implementation of planned measures and fund constraints.

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