Over the last few days, large swathes of land in the north and north-eastern districts of Bangladesh have been inundated, creating fears of farmers incurring huge losses as croplands have become submerged under flood waters. These crops include jute, Aush paddy, vegetable, grains and seedbeds of Aman paddy. The floods have come as a double blow to farmers struggling to deal with the fallout on market supply and demand due to the pandemic, and are now having to deal with the loss of their property and potentially catastrophic damage to the crops on which their livelihoods depend as well.
According to officials of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), some portion of the crops can be saved if the flood water recedes quickly, but almost all the crops will be damaged if the water stays for one week. This flooding has occurred in Bogura, Gaibandha, Lalmonirhat, Jamalpur, Sylhet and Sunamganj, with char areas being hit particularly hard. Overall, almost 27,000 hectares of cropland have been affected, with hundreds of thousands of families finding themselves in particularly vulnerable situations as a result.
We urge the government to provide immediate assistance to the affected farmers and their families. There is no room for complacency—the local governments in the flood-hit areas must provide relief without delay. This will not only involve food support and essential supplies, such as face masks and soap to deal with the scourge of the pandemic, but also financial assistance to make up for lost property and to ensure that farmers are able to go back to farming the land as soon as the waters recede.
These floods demonstrate the importance of making long-term plans to respond to such situations as well. Last year, during monsoon, almost one-third of the country went underwater, and over 200 people in South Asia lost their lives in flash floods and landslides, according to an AFP report. A UN study published on March 21 said that more frequent and severe floods are likely in Bangladesh and India due to climate change, and by 2030, floods could cost South Asia as much as USD 215 billion each year. In this context, the government must seriously take up the fight against climate change and come up with sustainable solutions to help farmers deal with its adverse impacts.