In the middle of the uncertainties caused by the unchecked spread of coronavirus in Bangladesh and the global economic downturn, the situation is being made much worse in many districts due to some 14 rivers across the country flowing above the danger levels. According to a bulletin from the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre, the water levels of the Brahmaputra, Jamuna, Padma and Meghna may rise further, exacerbating the suffering of people who have already been affected by floods that have destroyed embankments, roads and homesteads, and posing a great threat to croplands as well. So far, nearly two million people have been affected in 15 districts in the northern and northeastern parts of the country.
Bangladesh as a low-lying land is prone to flooding and rising water levels in rivers. A UN study published on March 21 said that more 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. As it stands, there is no excuse for us to be unprepared in dealing with these floods, especially since climate experts have been warning us for many years of these same risks that we are facing now. There should have been a coordinated and planned strategy to prevent these sufferings, rather than trying to ease them after they occur.
We urge the government to immediately take steps and provide aid to the people who have been affected by floods. This will involve not only handing them relief but also giving them shelter, if their homesteads have been destroyed, and protecting them from Covid-19. The triple burden of the pandemic, economic downturn and floods have made these people extremely vulnerable, and they require rapid interventions to prevent them from falling into destitution.
However, we also urge the government to ensure that this situation is not repeated and the damage is minimised in the coming years. For example, around 30 villages were freshly flooded recently after 400 metres of alternative dyke collapsed in Dharla upazila in Kurigram. While the local union chairman alleged that the collapse occurred due to the negligence of the Water Development Board (WDB), the Kurigram WDB in turn blamed the locals for cutting the dyke indiscriminately. Instead of passing the buck in this way, the government must ensure that all levels of planning and administration are involved in protecting people from floods. As this example shows, some very simple steps, if taken in a timely manner, could prevent a great deal of suffering.