Aila sufferings to last for months
The survivors of cyclone Aila in Satkhira are unlikely to be relieved of their sufferings anytime soon as it will take several months to complete the repair works of the damaged embankments there.
Although the authorities concerned began repairing small breaches in the dams, it might not be possible to repair the large ones before the end of the rainy season because of strong current, river erosion and shortage of spare earth nearby.
Moreover, the water level of the rivers will rise in the next full moon with a possibility of breaching the embankments again. The overall situation might take a serious turn in monsoon.
The inhabitants of Aila-hit Shyamnagar and Assasuni upazilas fear that further rainfall might create fresh cracks in the embankments.
The sufferings of the cyclone survivors who took shelter on the embankment at Shyamnagar increased further due to raining yesterday.
“We have lost everything. The rain even damaged our fragile shelter where I spent the last few days with my five family members. But now we have nowhere to sleep,” said Abdulla Biswas of Kalinchi village in Shyamnagar.
Many survivors have already started moving to safer places.
Lutfur Rahman, executive engineer of Division-1 of Water Development Board (WDB), told The Daily Star yesterday, “It will be quite difficult to repair the embankments in many areas especially at Gabura during the rainy season due to rise in water level by a few feet and strong current.”
“Giant waves will lash the embankment during the full moon within a week,” he said.
The executive engineer said the repair works of the small breaches at different points in the dam have already begun under the food for work programme.
Since the repair work will begin on full scale in the next winter, it would not be possible to complete the work before the next dry season, he said.
Lutfur said it took one and a half months to repair the breaches developed in September in the embankment at Gabura union last year.
He said of the embankment's 377-kilometre area under his division, about 27 kilometres covering several unions of Shyamnagar upazila was completely destroyed while a 135-kilometre area of the dam was partially damaged.
“We need Tk 40 crore to repair the damaged embankments. We have estimated that around Tk 100 crore will be required for rehabilitation programme, protection from river erosion, reconstruction of the sluice gates and closures,” he said.
Lutfur said they have already sought for Tk 13 crore for the food for work programme.
Many inhabitants of Gabura, Padmapukur, Burigoalini, Munshiganj, Atulia and Ramzannagar unions under Shyamnagar upazila and several unions of Assasuni were seen repairing the small breaches in the embankment both voluntarily and under the food for work programme.
Sheikh Hazrat Ali, a resident of Gabura union, said if the embankment is not repaired immediately their remaining belongings will get washed away by strong tide during the full moon.
“We shall not be able to live on the embankment if it is not repaired soon,” he added.
Shafiul Azam Lenin, chairman of Gabura union, said it will be possible to repair the breaches covering an area of 21 kilometres within a week under the food for work programme.
But it would not be possible to repair the large ones without piling, he said.
Some inhabitants in the area blamed the shrimp farmers for the breaches in the embankment saying the dam got damaged at several points when water was pumped into their enclosures from the river.
Executive Engineer of WDB Division-2 AKM Mujibur Rahman Hawlader said around 3.9 kilometre area of the embankment in Assasuni upazila was washed away by tidal surge while another 98-kilometre area was partially damaged.
He said they have estimated that Tk 27.14 crore would be required for rehabilitation programme and another Tk 20.10 crore for protection from river erosion.
Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Satkhira Mohammad Abdus Samad told The Daily Star that they hope to complete repair of the small breaches within a week.
He also said the government has decided to repair the large breaches with the help of the army.
Asked about the fate of the affected people if the embankment is not repaired before the rains, he said, “We shall continue providing them with relief until they return home.”
“Many houses mostly the thatched ones were destroyed by tidal surge,” he said.
When asked whether they would help the survivors rebuild their houses, Samad said he has already requested the higher authorities to provide loans to the survivors.
Meanwhile, Food and Disaster Management Minister Abdur Razzaque told The Daily Star that they will start repair works of the damaged embankments on a temporary basis within 10 days.
But the permanent repair works will begin in October-November, he said.
An allocation of Tk 116 crore -- Tk 41 crore in cash and 25,000 tonnes of rice -- has been made for repairing the embankments immediately.
"We have instructed the authorities concerned to start the work across the country within 10 days," he said.
The Army will also be involved in the work.
He said it will require around Tk 420 crore to complete the permanent repair works of the embankments expected to begin in October-November.
Razzaque said the affected people, who will do repair works, will be paid Tk 250 to Tk 300 each daily.