6 days ago

Flood victims need urgent help

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Severe flooding in several northern districts including Kurigram and Gaibandha continues to cause profound concern as more than 2.0 million people are marooned and suffering immeasurably. Furthermore, it's predicted to worsen over the coming days and swamp new areas as the Brahmaputra water level continues to rise. Thousands of families particularly those in low-lying areas of Kurigram, Gaibandha, Jamalpur, Sirajganj, and Sylhet, are marooned and in distress. They are passing their days without food, water, and protection. Schools have been closed, and residents are in dire need of essential supplies. Kurigram district administration reports that 55 of the district's 72 unions have gone under flood water with several million people affected. In Gaibandha, the situation has been rapidly deteriorating, impacting 28,938 families. The situation is almost identical in Bogura, where 78,332 people in Sariakandi and Sonatola upazilas are affected.

In Sylhet, despite less rainfall in the last couple of days, the situation hasn't improved. In fact, it's worsened at Zakiganj, Fenchuganj, and Biyanibazar upazilas due to the Kushiara River overflow. In other upazilas, including Sylhet city, water is receding very slowly. The people of Sunamganj in Sylhet once again are experiencing significant hardship. They have already experienced flooding twice within just one month. It is considered normal and to be expected, for the Sylhet region to face water submersion annually due to heavy rain and the onrushing of water from upstream, a situation considered beyond human control. Observers are of the belief, however, that if the rivers could be dredged well, it would have helped the rivers to hold onrushing water in greater volume and reduce human suffering considerably.

Added to the woes of the flood victims there is negligible and insufficient aid at the ready. Flood victims -- senior citizens, men, women and children -- in temporary shelters urgently require food, drinking water and medical supplies. Relief efforts must be intensified without delay to address their urgent needs. Once the immediate crisis subsides, a comprehensive response is crucial. This includes thorough damage assessments focusing on homes, agriculture, and fisheries. Based on these findings, seed distribution and financial aid for house repairs should be prioritised, ensuring fair and efficient allocation. The government has a mandate and moral responsibility to ensure swift and equitable distribution of this life-saving critical aid.

It should be obvious to all the recurring floods underscore the need for a comprehensive, sustainable approach to flood management. Increasing the navigability of rivers, restoring natural drainage systems, and preventing encroachments on waterways are crucial steps to ensure that water can flow unimpeded. A long-term, sustainable plan is needed to protect the Surma, Kushiara, and all rivers across the country from encroachment and pollution. Yearly allocations for river dredging have proven ineffective, as funds are often criminally squandered and willfully wasted. To save the people of greater Sylhet and northern Bangladesh from recurring floods, genuine, sincere, and impactful actions are needed instead of superficial measures. In addition to governmental efforts, public awareness and community involvement are also crucial. Citizens must be educated on the importance of keeping drainage systems clear of debris and waste. Collective action can significantly mitigate the impact of future floods. As the frequency and intensity of floods are increasing and are likely to be exacerbated by climate change, proactive measures, rather than reactive responses, will better safeguard lives and property. Today is never too soon... tomorrow maybe too late. The government needs to act now.

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