Rivers now below danger levels first time in 64 days

Emran Hossain | Published at 11:45pm on August 29, 2020

For the first time in 64 days all major rivers in Bangladesh flowed below their danger levels at a time on Saturday as the 2nd longest flood in five decades officially came to an end leaving one third of the country in ruins.

Although, statistically, no river was flooding their banks, practically some of them were still pumping huge amount of water in some areas through cracks developed in embankments over last two months.

Thousands of people are still left stranded in many areas of northern and central Bangladesh because of water stagnation while thousands of coastal inhabitants experience sudden rush of water in their houses through dykes until Saturday.

‘Ever since its birth only once did Bangladesh see a flood greater than this year in terms of length,’ Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre executive engineer Arifuzzaman Bhuiyan told New Age.

The flood in the year of 1998 lasted 65 days at some places in central Bangladesh, said Arif.

The other great flood that lasted more than a month was in 1988, he said.

The FFWC said that though over last two months there were always some rivers overflowing and the worst affected areas in the Jamuna and Padma basins faced flooding of about 40 days at a time.

About 40 per cent of Bangladesh was affected at the peak of the flood exactly a month after it began on June 27 with 20 rivers above their flood levels at 30 points, according to FFWC.

This is the third time in five decades that people in this country saw a flood with such extent of affecting 40 per cent of the country, showed FFWC records. 

The two other floods of the magnitude occurred in 2007 and 2017.

On June 27, nine rivers overflowed their banks overnight, up to five and a half feet, after sudden release of water in the upstream rivers across the border in India, flooding nearly a dozen of districts, mainly in the north.

The flood then gradually moved toward central region and spread inland as rivers drained slowly partly because of low navigability and party because of the sea remaining unusually swollen.

The Jamuna remained above its flood level at many points for 44 days in a row until August 8 and then, with a break of nine days, overflowed again on August 17, FFWC data showed.

The Jamuna fell below the danger level again on August 21.

On the other hand, the Padma, which first spilled its banks on July 30, overflowed for 44 days in a row at a point or the other until August 12.

After a gap of three days the Padma began spilling its bank at some points again and continued to do so until Friday, FFWC data showed.

The Meghna overflowed on an off with frequent breaks throughout the time.

The Teesta broke five decades of water level record on July 13.

Arif said that the two major rivers might remain stable through the first week of September, after when chances of further flooding depend on rains in upstream.

It is common for Bangladesh, draining about 90 per cent of 1.7 square kilometre of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin, to experience multiple floods during monsoon, the season extended between June and August.

The basin gets 80 per cent of its flow from heavy monsoon rains.

Though September and October are meteorologically called post-monsoon months, floods are not rare during this time either.

The New Age correspondent in Munshiganj reported that parts of the district, especially in Louhajong upazila, saw severe water stagnation with dozens of families stranded.

The New Age correspondent in Tangail reported that many areas at Bashail and Kalihati upazilas were still under water because of rivers passing water through breaches in embankments.

Dozens of families are still living on embankments or at relatives’ house in Tangail as their houses remain submerged, he said.

Thousands of others, including erosion victims, who have been able to go back home in northern and central Bangladesh have not begun rebuilding yet because of poor government rehabilitation.

The disaster management and relief ministry said that the flood affected over 5.5 million people in 33 districts at its peak and assessed that it caused a loss of Tk 5,972 crore.

The health emergency control room said that flood related causes so far claimed 251 lives, the second highest ever death toll recorded by the health authorities since it started keeping records in 2014.

As rivers retreated in the north and at centre, poorly maintained dykes of polders in the coastal region failed to hold back the pressure from high sea tide and water entered the areas through cracks in the dykes in seven districts.

Some of the cracks were repaired but many remained open with tens of thousands of people trapped in flooding of vast areas in Satkhira and Khulna.

Satkhira’s Shyamnagar upazila nirbahi officer ANM Abuzar Giffary said that 3,500 families were stranded in half a dozen villages while dozens were driven out of homes.

In Satkhira’s Ashashuni upazila about 1 lakh people are left stranded in dozens of villages and their sufferings are likely to stay until winter.