Govt must be prepared early to mitigate flood impact

Published: 00:00, Jul 31,2020


THE flooding that Bangladesh now faces, having already rolled for 32 days with no sign of any significant improvement in the next fortnight, is said to be the longest such incident in 22 years. The flooding, feared to have an impact greater than the flooding of 1998 and 1988, has already pushed about five million people, especially in Bangladesh’s north and the central areas, into serious vulnerability. The flooding of 1998, when 68 per cent of Bangladesh went under water lasted for 66 days, as the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre says. In the flooding at hand, danger marks on 17 rivers have been breached by swelling water at 27 places, with the River Teesta having flowed at a 50-year high, as is reported, on July 14. Rivers in central areas swelled by 15 centimetres between Tuesday and Wednesday, inundating more areas in Dhaka and its neighbouring districts afresh. Flooding has remained largely unchanged in the north with the height of the River Dharla having remained static. The flooding, which has already inundated more than 35 per cent of the area, could submerge about 40 per cent by the middle of August when floodwater is estimated to start receding.

The longer the flooding, as experts say, the graver the impact.  Crops on more than 150,000 hectares have already been destroyed, more than 4.8 million people have been stranded and about 15,000 houses have been washed away. Embankment spanning more than 200 kilometres has already been destroyed.  With the flooding feared to continue till the middle of August, the destruction that it could leave and its impact might go beyond what the government can tackle unless effective preparedness are not immediately put in place. The authorities concerned are reported not to have so far effectively dealt with measures against flooding. Rivers and flood-flow zones continued to be encroached on, hindering the flow of water that causes inundation. The government has come up with a list of about 50,000 individuals or entities that have grabbed river land and constricted the water flow but it has failed to attend to the issue in a sustainable manner. Plans have been taken to improve on the situation and to deal with flooding, which is a recurring event, yet nothing has improved on the ground. Flood mitigation plans have also failed, mostly because of corruption, now having left such a huge number of people stranded.

Bangladesh has gone through severe flooding and has experiences of overcoming the impact of flooding. In such a situation, the government must scale up its rehabilitation and mitigation efforts drawing from its experience of previous flooding of such gravity. This is more pressing now as life has already been strained by the COVID-19 outbreak, which has eroded people’s earning and savings and has left many of them jobless. It is time the process started.

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