Given these circumstances, NAP documents need to be accurate, comprehensive, and representative of local vulnerabilities across the entire country. Misinformation could mean the difference between successful adaptation or forced relocation of entire villages. With stakes this high, the research community has become involved in building tools and methods to help ensure accurate vulnerability assessments within the country, and assistance in developing appropriate adaptations initiatives given certain vulnerabilities.
This article describes a specific method for determining nation-wide vulnerabilities to identify priority areas for long term adaptation projects. This means methods which take into consideration all possible vulnerabilities that a system -- town, village, upazila, etc -- could experience, not simply the physical exposures. Vulnerability in this context is “the degree to which a system is unable to cope with the adverse effects of climate change, a function of three components: Exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity.”
GVA combines all three components into a national index of vulnerability. This means that, even though vulnerability is ranked at the national level, the local factors, both physical and social, are taken into consideration when determining a place’s climate change vulnerability.
Using GVA for adaptation planning has many benefits. The most important benefit is that local experts get to decide what data is more important for vulnerability within their country. This method uses indicators to represent each component of vulnerability, adaptive capacity, sensitivity, and exposure, but those indicators will vary greatly from country to country based upon the country’s social experiences and physical exposures.
This local expert input applies to geographic decisions as well. The vulnerability map can be made to any sub-national scale depending on what will be most helpful for planning purposes. This degree of local input means that vulnerability indexes generated through GVA are based upon local experiences rather than prescribed international systems for determining vulnerability or external suggestions.
Further benefits include the method’s potential for transformative and cross-sectorial adaptation given the comprehensive nature of vulnerability indicators. As GVA takes into consideration all forms of vulnerability within a system, projects can be designed to address multiple vulnerabilities at once. The cross sectorial planning and synthesised understanding of vulnerability makes projects designed based on GVA less likely to be maladaptive.
Finally, if GVA is used for planning it provides a valuable visual tool for justifying project funding, and can also be used for monitoring project success. GVA is specifically designed to be used in the development of NAP documents in all least developed countries, and is particularly applicable to Bangladesh. Using GVA in the development of the Bangladesh NAP is important given the history of adaptation planning, namely the NAPA, in the country. NAPA projects were based on single vulnerabilities, mainly physical.
A possible solution to prevent this in the NAP is to ensure that all components of vulnerability are considered at the beginning of the planning process such that projects address all possible impacts, and reach the most vulnerable people. In Bangladesh, this type of synthesis allows government planning agencies the ability to prioritise areas that are vulnerable to multiple types of climate change exposures such as cyclones, saline intrusion, and flooding, but that also have limited adaptive capacity or higher sensitivity, such as over-populated urban areas (particularly poor areas) or areas with very limited technology access.
Building a map using GVA is a four step process. The first step is to select a geographic unit to collect all selected indicators of the three components of vulnerability into. This unit could be regions, districts, upazilas, a grid system covering the country or other unit. The next step is to convert all the chosen indicators -- indicators that represent all three components of vulnerability -- into the chosen geographic unit. This requires mapping software to convert existing data in different geographic units into the chosen unit. All selected indicators -- as many or as few as local experts feel will represent all three components of vulnerability most accurately -- must be converted into the chosen geographic unit.
The third step is to convert the indicators into a shared numeric scale. Common scales are 1-5 or 1-10, where a geographic area is awarded a 1 for very low vulnerability based upon the indicator and a 5 or 10 for very high vulnerability. The final step is to combine all of the indicators that now share a geographic, as well as a numeric scale, into a single vulnerability index.
The main advantage of using this method in the Bangladesh NAP is that planners have the best chance of selecting projects that reach the most vulnerable people in the most vulnerable places. The NAP must be based on an accurate comprehensive understanding of local climate change vulnerability across the nation and GVA is a valuable tool for accomplishing this.
Recalling also that the NAP is meant to be a standing document that designs an adaptation plan for the long-term GVA maps can be modified and updated as more knowledge is gained and as local circumstances shift. This long-term flexibility of GVA makes it ideal for the long-term planning sought in the NAP. The main barrier to implementation of GVA in Bangladesh is access to data. This method relies heavily on accurate spatial data of both social and physical vulnerabilities to climate change. Without access to up to date and accurate spatial data this method cannot be implemented in Bangladesh.
Despite this challenge, GVA can play a useful role in Bangladesh national adaptation planning as a tool to ensure that the projects proposed target those who need adaptation assistance most urgently, and that adaptation projects address all forms of vulnerability, reducing the likelihood for mal-adaptation.
Originally printed in the Dhaka Tribune