A FLOODING for the second time this year, which is reported to have so far largely submerged Kushtia and Pabna, could spell another round of disaster if government agencies related to flood protection, mitigation and rehabilitation do not shore up the issues that they could in time. With a rise in the water level of the River Padma and its tributaries, as India opened all the flood gates of the Farakka Barrage on Sunday, areas in Chapainawabganj, Rajshahi, Sirajganj, Tangail, Munshiganj, Manikganj, Magura, Faridpur, Madaripur and Shariatpur stand the chance of being inundated. All major rivers but for the River Jamuna have, as the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre says, showed rising trends, which would continue for a couple of days. The major rivers at several stations — the Padma at the Goalanda and Hardinge Bridge points, the Gorai at the Kamarkhali point, the Passur at the Khulna point and the Meghna at the Meghna Bridge point — are reported to be flowing above danger level. All this suggests that more areas could go under water and that more sufferings are waiting for people living downstream with the water flowing down. In the flooding that took place in July, inundating 28 districts in all, 108 people died. Yet, the government’s disaster response, mitigation and rehabilitation efforts proved insignificant.
The government should immediately get to the work of disaster response, mitigation and rehabilitation as in the earlier flooding, disaster response was reported to be poor; so were the mitigation efforts. Many of the infrastructure that were damaged in the flood are reported not to have been properly attended to till date. Transparency International, Bangladesh in a report on the July flooding that it released on September 29 notes widespread corruption and irregularities in the distribution of relief supplies. About three-fourths of 683 families surveyed in 10 upazilas of the five worst-affected districts are reported not to have received any relief supplies and more than a half of the flood victims surveyed complained of favouritism, political or otherwise, in the selection of beneficiaries for relief distribution. Families affected in six of the upazilas said that they had never received any rice from the relief supplies. Instances of the victims paying bribes for the relief supplies were not rare and there were allegations that relatives of local government representatives, in many cases, received supplies more than what was meant. All this are reported to have happened even against the backdrop of similar allegations that surfaced during the 2017 twin flooding — a flash flood in March–April and a regular flood in August–September — that left the communications network battered in addition to damage to buildings, embankments and crops.
A flooding for a second time, with a gap of two months, are mostly likely to spell a disaster unless the government, with all its relevant agencies on board, does not have strong plans for disaster response, mitigation and rehabilitation in place. Now being close to the year’s end, the government must also put in additional efforts to keep the academic life of millions of students smooth in addition to flood-time regular efforts. But the government must also see that the efforts afford the victims the relief intended and no political considerations mar the process.
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