Amphan Aftermath: Water crisis with water all around | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 07, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:52 AM, June 07, 2020

Amphan Aftermath: Water crisis with water all around

People in submerged Koyra villages still stuck with multifarious problems

There's water all around Amena Begum. Yet, her son has to bring drinking water in a raft from a shallow tube well 2.5km away.

Hundreds of cyclone Amphan victims stranded on the partially submerged Koyra Sadar-Bedkashi road in Khulna's Koyra upazila have to access drinking water similarly.

Losing their homes and belongings to Amphan, these people have been living in makeshift shanties on the dryer parts of the road since May 21, a day after the cyclone.

"Some people gave us rice, lentil and oil as relief. But no one gave us water," Amena said.

The Koyra Sadar upazila with two water treatment plants is 8km away, so most families cannot go there to fetch water, she added.

Proshanta Kumar Paul, Koyra upazila public health engineer, said in the four worst-hit unions of Koyra, 1,100 tube wells have been fully submerged or damaged by the tidal surge during the cyclone.

He said 1.4 lakh water purification tablets and 1,500 water jars --10-litre each -- have been distributed among cyclone victims in the upazila.

Each tablet can be used in a 5-litre container of water collected from partially-submerged tube wells or ponds, but it won't remove salinity, Proshanta said.

"We are also supplying 1,500 litre of drinking water using four mobile water treatment plants in the affected areas every day but we could not yet reach many remote places," he said.

"People in those places are facing water crisis. We told them to collect rainwater," Proshanta added.    

However, people like Amena, possessing no large containers, cannot collect rainwater and are often drinking the saline water, risking their health.

Humayun Kabir, chairman of Koyra Sadar Union Parishad, said many villagers in his union are suffering from cold, fever, skin-infections and water-borne diseases such as diarrhea but are not getting medical help.

All the four clinics of the union are closed and the health providers cannot reach the affected area because roads have been flooded, he said.

According to Humayun and Sardar Nurul Islam Company, chairman of Uttar Bedkashi union, at least 50,000 people from the two unions have been stranded for the last two weeks.

So far, only 400 people from these unions have received relief such as rice, lentil, dry food and some cash, they claimed. 

Abu Huriaya, a former member of Koyra Sadar Union Parishad, and a resident of No 2 Koyra village, said many are having trouble cooking these relief items because of lack of stoves and firewood.

Some better-off families are buying gas cylinders, but many like Amena try to collect dead trees floating in the water and dry those out to use as firewood.

Abu Huriaya also noted how the absence of sanitation facilities and people living in close quarters with domestic animals in dry areas, flood control dams and cyclone shelters are adding to the health risk of the cyclone victims.

"Relief has not yet reached the char and remote areas. Many of these people had already lost their jobs in the pandemic. They are now in dire condition with no food at home," he added.

The tidal surge caused by the cyclone Amphan flooded hundreds of villages in Khulna district. At least 80 villages in the district including 60 in Koyra upazila are still under saline water.

Around one and a half lakh cyclone Amphan affected people in the upazila are facing scarcity of food, drinking water, accommodation, sanitation and health facilities, locals claimed.

Koyra Upazila Health and Family Planning Officer Sudip Bala, however, said 12 medical teams are working in the waterlogged villages and there is no medical crisis anywhere.

He said a campaign asking people not to drink saline water is being carried out and they are also providing saline and necessary medicines in the waterlogged areas.

Upazila Nirbahi Officer Shimul Kumar Saha of Koyra told The Daily Star that they already distributed 50 tonnes of rice, Tk 75 lakh and dry food for cyclone-affected people.

Though relief distribution is continuing, reaching all the affected areas is taking time due to lack of manpower and volunteers, he said.

Local lawmaker Md Akhtaruzzaman Babu said the government has allocated money for dam construction, which will start from October.

When asked how the cyclone victims would cope till then, he said, they are taking the time to build a sturdy, long-lasting dam this time. 

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