Time to coordinate all relief efforts for maximum effect
As floodwater in Sylhet and surrounding districts has begun to recede, with the exception of a few newly flooded areas, a clearer picture of the damage and suffering caused is beginning to emerge. And it's evident that human factors are as much to blame for that as nature itself. This has been highlighted by two recent reports that focused on how ill-planned relief efforts prolonged suffering, and how ill-planned development in the region prolonged flooding.
The first issue is, of course, a major concern at the moment. Insufficient government relief has been criticised from the very start. Added to this was the haphazard manner in which private donations of food and medicine were handled, with no central supervision of such efforts. In fact, lack of coordination has been a central theme of the rescue and relief operations. We're told that the authorities, after about two weeks of flooding, have now decided to coordinate all relief efforts, private and public, through committees formed at the upazila and union levels with government officials, public representatives and community leaders in attendance.
This is a good step, of course. But it brings no joy when you consider the massive suffering already caused by the government's lack of preparedness. And it brings no certainty of ending that suffering soon when you remember how past engagements of local ruling party leaders in similar disbursement efforts were often marred by allegations of misappropriation. We're already witnessing the painful aftermath of this flood, with people desperate for relief to feed their families and cattle. Newspaper reports are replete with heart-breaking stories of their horrendous experience. Also, at least 73 people reportedly died between May 17 and June 23 owing to flood-related causes. All this is evidence that for these committees and relevant agencies to deliver results, they must be honest, swift, and proportionate, and supported by much larger contributions from the government's own fund.
Over the past two weeks, the region's agricultural, fish and cattle farming sectors have also been devastated, requiring a painful rebuilding process. This cannot be done without, among other things, a conscious undoing of the damage done to the composition of the haor region. According to a recent study, approximately 86 percent of the haor region has been filled over the last 32 years, dangerously reducing its water retention capacity and thus prolonging flooding. For any rebuilding of life, property and industry to work in the long run, we must look at the bigger picture and allow a seamless integration of our development and haor preservation priorities.
We urge the government to undertake its relief and rebuilding efforts with an eye on the future. These must be expedited given the current situation, and extended to cover all the victims.