More than nine million people are marooned in the low-lying country following heavy rains
Farmer Ainul Haque has suffered losses of nearly 200,000 taka in repeat floods in Bangladesh's Sylhet district in May and June. (Photo: Stephan Uttom/UCA News)
Ainul Haque, a 53-year-old farmer in Karaballa village in Bangladesh’s flood-affected Sylhet district, has run out of ideas to survive the repeated assaults by nature.
Speaking to UCA News over the phone on June 20, Haque said he was hoping to sell his three cows ahead of Eid next month to pay off the debt he had incurred due to the destruction of crops in earlier floods in May.
But two of the three cows were swept away in the latest floods, reducing the father of three to tears.
Reuters quoted officials to report on June 20 that last week’s monsoon downpours had triggered catastrophic flooding in the Sylhet administrative division, leaving around a quarter of its 15 million population stranded amid fast-rising waters and swollen rivers.
More than nine million people were marooned in the low-lying country and neighboring India following heavy rains this month.
UCA News had spoken to Haque on May 30 after his farm was destroyed. He had leased a small piece of land to grow snake gourd and ridge gourd after raising a loan of 70,000 taka (US$757).
“I have a wife and three children to take care of. I am unable to think what to do now. My heart bursts into tears whenever I glance at the cow shed”
All of it got washed away while the interest on the loan continued to mount, he said. The two cows could have fetched him 100,000 taka ($1,081), enough to repay the entire loan with interest.
“I have a wife and three children to take care of. I am unable to think what to do now,” Haque said after the latest setback. “My heart bursts into tears whenever I glance at the cow shed.”
His wife is worried about how to feed the children. After the previous floods, they had received 10 kilograms of rice, one kilogram of pulses and half a liter of cooking oil from the government.
“But in this flood, nothing has come our way except some flattened rice and biscuits. An organization from capital Dhaka took our names and mobile number but has not given anything yet. I have left everything to Allah,” Haque said.
With the water levels still high, authorities are unable to gauge the extent of losses but said last month’s floods had caused a loss of 1.1 billion taka ($11.9 million) in Sylhet district alone.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension, about 3,300 hectares of land under paddy and 1,461 hectares of summer vegetables have been affected by the floods in the district.
In all, the amount of damage will exceed 4 billion taka ($43 million), said Kazi Mujibur Rahman, deputy director of the Department of Agricultural Extension, Sylhet.
“This time [in June] there weren’t many standing crops in the field. But many fish farms were ruined. There is a possibility of more damage to houses,” Rahman added.
According to media reports, the repeat floods have caused extensive damage to paddy, fish farms and roads in Sunamganj.
“Hopefully, the situation will improve a lot in a few days. I have ordered house repair and agricultural rehabilitation programs when the flood waters recede. The government is by your side"
Abdul Noor, 53, a resident of Laxmiprasad West Union in the Kanaighat subdistrict of Sylhet, said his fish farm was destroyed completely in May.
“The floods lasted 10 days and I could barely recover 10 small fish at the end of it. I had borrowed money and the debt has now mounted to 190,000 taka ($2,054),” he said.
Noor told UCA News over the phone that the 160 kilograms of paddy stored in the house too had been washed away. “I think God is angry with us,” he said.
Caritas Sylhet director Boniface Khonglah said Caritas has so far provided beaten paddy, puffed rice, molasses and drinking water to about 500 people. They have also sought more help from donors for rehabilitation work.
“We are looking to rehabilitate at least 30,000 families,” Khonglah told UCA News.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited the flood-hit areas on June 21 and assured complete government assistance for victims.
“Hopefully, the situation will improve a lot in a few days. I have ordered house repair and agricultural rehabilitation programs when the flood waters recede. The government is by your side,” she is reported to have told flood victims.
However, ordinary people like Haque and Noor do not feel assured by the mere words of the prime minister. “Government assistance doesn’t reach us. I hope it does this time,” Haque said.
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