DEVASTATING floods submerged large parts of Bangladesh in August, causing huge losses to people, crops and property. About 80 lakh people were affected, 6 lakh hectares of agricultural crops were damaged and nearly 1.5 lakh fish farmers incurred heavy losses. As the flood water is receding in some areas, the low-lying areas in northern districts may, there is a warning, be flooded again. Active monsoon rains in Arunachal, Assam and Meghalaya in India, as New Age reported on Saturday, have worsened flooding upstream and the onrush of water from the River Brahmaputra may further inundate districts in Bangladesh. While the flood forecasting and warning centre rules out the possibility of major flooding, low-lying areas in the Jamuna-Brahmaputra basin would continue to inundate. Because of the onrush of water from the Barak basin, people of Sylhet, Sunamganj and Maulvibazar will not see an immediate relief from floods. In this context, the government should ensure that flood water warning system is in place well ahead and arrange for emergency relief for people in this area.
The Sylhet region bore the worst of flooding since April when incessant rain coupled with water from the upstream triggered flash floods inundating 1,29,172 hectares of farmland and destroying boro cultivation. Affected fishermen and farmers who lost their harvest and fish to the flash flood continue to suffer as economic activities in the region have been difficult for a couple of months. The government relief work, as reported by the media, is often found to be inadequate and failing to reach remote areas. There are also allegations of corruption in relief distribution. The disaster management ministry and the local administration should, therefore, design a plan, after a speedy assessment of the total flood-induced tangible losses, that serves long- and short term need of the people. Food aid and limited medical supply alone are not enough. Farmers in the area will not be able to cultivate boro rice until the next season; children have been out of school for months. In what follows, all authorities concerned should consider the cumulative, long-term losses that people have incurred in the region.
Taking into account the most recent flooding report, the government must ensure that people living on low land in the north are warned timely so they could keep their damage to a minimum. The government should resource the local administrations with adequate relief and human resources to run relief programme effectively. In addition, it must ensure that farmers and fishermen from the area get financial and other supports to resume their economic activities after the flood. More importantly, the government, with the input of the disaster management ministry, must raise the issue of regional flood management with the Indian government as well as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation to discuss the possibility of a regional flood management action plan as flood is a shared regional concern.
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