The imminent flood and our preparation
When the situation in the country took a terrible turn in the ongoing Corona pandemic, cyclone Amphan came and increased the level of disaster. Now the new danger for the country is the impending flood. Meteorologists are predicting severe flood this year. Their prediction is that the flood will be in two stages this year. The first phase of flood will be in July. The second phase of the flood will be at the end of August and the beginning of September.
Floods are a well known natural disaster for Bangladesh. Many districts of the country are affected by floods every year. But sometimes these floods exceed the level of severity. Examples can be given of the floods that occurred in 1988, 1991, 1998, 2004, 2008 and 2017. Of these, 61% area of the country was inundated by the flood in1988. The flood in 1998 inundated 68% areas of the country. The latest floods of 2017 also affected at least 32 districts of the country.
Millions of people become shelter less when their homes are submerged. When the roads are submerged, boats are the only means of communication. Those who can not afford to buy or build a boat can somehow navigate by building a banana raft. Hundreds of people lose their lives and drown. As a result, the longer the flood lasts, the more severe the food crisis occurs among people. Moreover, as the market is submerged and the transportation is tough, collecting food becomes a big challenge for the flood-affected people. Besides, public health is also at extreme risk. There is an acute shortage of safe food and drinking water. Waterborne diseases including diarrhea, cholera, typhoid are on the rise. When the communication system breaks down, it becomes very difficult to take the patients to the hospital. Drug crisis hits in the flood affected areas. Moreover, at the beginning and end of the flood, the intensity of river erosion increases. As a result, thousands of people on the banks of the river become homeless.
Following the heavy rains in May-June this year and various related indicators, meteorologists are predicting severe floods between July and September. Some districts like Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari and Gaibandha of Rangpur division of the country have already been partially flooded. The risk of floods is clear in Sirajganj, Bogra and Pabna districts of Rajshahi division. North Bengal is the most flood prone area in the country. Within the next one month, 230 rivers flowing through the country will swell up. Since this year's flood is imminent, everyone must be prepared now.
The government, NGOs, voluntary organizations and above all the people have to play an efficient and planned role in dealing with the flood disaster. These roles can be divided into flood preparedness, flood response and post-flood recovery activities. As part of flood preparedness, the houses of the people in high-risk areas need to be raised with soil. Tube wells and toilets should be installed at higher elevations so as not to create a safe water and sanitation crisis for floods. Snake infestation increases during floods. So it is necessary to buy and store carbolic acid or phenol in glass bottles to repel snakes. If the phenol is actually sprinkled around the house, the snake will not enter the house because of that smell. Moreover, if there are rat holes in the house or yard, these should be closed with soil. Arrangements must be made to repel frogs. If there are frogs, there is a possibility of snake's coming. As soon as the flood waters start coming, it would be better to buy dry food from the market such as chira-muri, sugar-molasses. Oral saline and primary medications (such as paracetamol) should be purchased. Easily portable stoves and dry fuels (like woods) should be kept ready. Small boats should be bought or built. Reservoirs or tanks can be purchased to store safe water. Farmers can build high lofts to store their crops and seeds.
The government, NGOs and voluntary organizations have to play roles in solving the food and transport crisis. But due to the ongoing Corona pandemic, the work of voluntary organizations, especially various university-based organizations, has come to a standstill due to the closure of educational institutions. Region-based volunteers also have to deal with the risk of corona infection. As a result, the activities of social organizations may not be available during the floods like before. However, among the readers who are volunteers, I hope they will continue the work of social assistance even during the floods by following the hygiene rules. In case of floods, one boat should be provided for village based transport of patients. Providing food aid to the needy families will be the most necessary task. All of us should be helpful for this cause. At least one day a week on a boat, health counseling should be arranged by doctors and pharmacists and plans should be made to provide necessary medicines to the sick. NGOs, local people's representatives, volunteers and the rich can not keep off in this matter. It must be the responsibility of all.
In the aftermath of floods, damaged houses need to be repaired, houses and yards cleaned and sewerage system repaired. It is very good to arrange government assistance and loans by listing the most affected people.
In the proposed new budget for the fiscal year 2020-21, the Ministry of Relief and Disaster Management has allocated Tk 9,826 crore. If the government is sincere in carrying out planned and corruption-free relief activities with this money, it will not be difficult to alleviate the sufferings of the flood affected people.
For so long, I have been talking about immediate action in the event of a flood. But long-term measures are the most needed to deal with the floods. Dredging measures will be the biggest step to prevent floods. River water will not flood the river basin if planned dredging is done in the middle of rivers like Padma, Meghna, Jamuna,Tista etc. The possibility of flooding will be greatly reduced in this way. Moreover, the construction of permanent dams to protect the river bank from erosion must be taken sincerely. Areas at the risk of river erosion should be identified and brought under the dam project on priority basis. Only then it can be possible to protect the settlements inhabited by millions of people and thousands of hectares of crop lands.
However, there are allegations of extreme corruption in these activities as well. If corruption is not controlled, the projects will be in black and white and implementation will be only a small part of it. In this case, the law enforcement agencies, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Ministry of Water Resources must have to increase their supervision. In the proposed new budget, the Ministry of Water Resources has allocated Tk 8,069 crore. Hopefully, using this allocated money, the Ministry of Water Resources will undertake a planned and effective project of construction of permanent dams and river dredging and will take initiative to deal with the catastrophic floods in Bangladesh through transparent and corruption-free works.
The writer is a student of Pharmacy, University of Rajshahi