Disaster management office must act early

Published: 00:00, May 08,2019

 
 

THE government performed comparatively better in taking cautionary measures to minimise the extent of damage and casualty from cyclone Fani. Early warnings were issued and people were relocated. Its post-disaster response is, however, rather slow and inadequate. The National Disaster Response Coordination Centre estimate that the cyclone destroyed 2,363 houses and damaged 18,670 houses in 26 districts. Noakhali is one of the worst effected districts with 4,300 people living in shelters as cyclone ravaged their houses. The Department of Agricultural Extension says that the cyclone affected 63,663 hectares of cropland in 21 districts. In the wake of the cyclone, rising rivers in haor regions caused flash flood. Rainwater has also inundated many coastal villages as the flood protection embankments are not fit for the purposes. The government initiated no move till Monday to repair embankments in six south-western districts where tidal surges continued flooding villages and cropland twice every day after the cyclone. The government has so far only made promises for rebuilding, repairs and rehabilitation but without any concrete deadlines.
Government relief efforts are known for lengthy bureaucracy and corruption. The Narail district administration admitted that people in the affected areas need emergency rebuilding support but coordination with the ministry to ensure the support will take time. In recent times, the bureaucratic delay in relief supplies to the victims of cyclone Sidr prolonged people’s sufferings. There are widespread allegations of corruption against government officials that they are involved in stealing relief supplies for sales on the market or take speed money for enlistment of the victims for relief supplies. A large part of disaster preparedness involves the construction of embankments but because of irregularities and mismanagement, it often does not serve the purpose. The cyclone breached 7 kilometres of the embankments at Kalapara, Patuakhali as it has not been properly maintained since 2007. The same was noticed in the haor region. Embankments in south-western districts were built to withstand slightly higher than usual tidal surges. Local people largely blame the public sector corruption for the situation. The involvement of Water Development Board officials in embezzling money allocated for embankment construction in haor region came to light during the 2017 flash flood. Local people said that flash flood or crop damage could have been prevented if the embankments intended to protect crop had been constructed and maintained in time.
The government, therefore, must improve its disaster management programmes by focusing on all three phases of disaster from forecasting to shelter and relocation to post-disaster response. It must eliminate unnecessary bureaucratic delay in relief distribution and ensure that the victims of cyclone Fani receive relief supplies immediately. It must investigate the allegation of corruption in the construction and maintenance of flood protection embankments to protect crops from tidal surges.

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