Post-disaster embankment repairs warrant early action

Published: 00:00, Jun 18,2021


THE ruling Awami League lawmaker for the Patuakhali 3 constituency took part in the general discussion in the parliament on Wednesday on the budget proposal for the 2021–2022 financial year while he had a placard hanging from his neck sporting a slogan that roughly translates to ‘No other demand but embankment.’ The lawmaker — who faced the wrath of the people of his constituency when he went there to distribute relief supplies to people affected by the cyclonic storm Yaas, which swamped the Bangladesh coast on May 26 — said that people of his area were carrying the same placards demanding the construction and repairs of embankments. The ruling Awami League lawmaker for the Khulna 6 constituency faced the wrath of the people of his constituency on June 1 when he went to a place at Koyra in a trawler. Several hundred people struggling to repair an embankment by the bank of the River Kobadak left damaged by cyclone Yass pelted the lawmaker with mud. Such protests by people, in some of which Water Development Board officials are also reported to have been attacked, point to a failure of the government of not taking adequate steps early to repair damaged embankments.

All this also points to perceived irregularities in the construction or repairs of embankments which, especially in coastal areas, have caused harm to the lives and livelihood of people. The government spends money on such construction and repairs but embankments breach almost every time flooding or tidal surges inundate the areas and erode the embankments, dealing a severe blow to the lives and livelihood of such people. It leaves people vulnerable to such natural calamities at risks, which sometimes persist for long, whenever embankments breach, damaging houses where they live, washing away the ponds where they farm fish, damaging the crops that they grow and leaves the roads wrecked and make communications difficult. It is only natural that the people who repeatedly face such problems and who need to wait for years, as has been seen in earlier cases of flooding and cyclones, for repairs would rise up in protests. Trapped between such repeated occasions, people can hardly have time to lead a normal life and progress on their economic development. This is why they want the embankments repaired first and they want it more than they want other relief supplies. If the embankments do not breach, they may not need to fall into distress every time natural disasters such as cyclone and flooding hit them.

It is, therefore, imperative for the government to stop corruption and irregularities in the construction or repairs of embankments in earnest to stop people suffering from what ruins their lives and livelihood. The government must also get down to repairs of embankments as soon as it can after every natural disaster that lay waste to the embankments, especially in coastal areas where such structures protect their lives and livelihood.

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