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Caritas to aid flood victims in Bangladesh

Food shortages loom for communities in northeastern region hit by unseasonal flooding

Caritas to aid flood victims in Bangladesh

A farmer piles up half-ripe paddy inundated by floods in Sunamganj district of northeastern Bangladesh on April 18. (Photo by Anis Mahmud)

ucanews.com reporters, Dhaka
Bangladesh

April 21, 2017

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Caritas is assessing an emergency situation in northeastern Bangladesh after unseasonal floods destroyed crops and other means of livelihood.

Daniel Dhritu Snal, project officer of disaster management at Caritas Sylhet said the agency is evaluating damage done by floods that have submerged vast areas in the haor wetland region which covers seven districts. Most of the evaluations are being done in Sunamganj district in Sylhet division, which has been the hardest hit area.

"We will offer people food items, which they need most, as well as money if they need it. Where necessary, we will give them medicine because various waterborne diseases hit affected communities after flooding," Snal told ucanews.com

"We will help people as much as we can but we have also designed a project to make communities able to fight disasters like flooding and drought effectively in the long run," said Snal.

Caritas will collaborate government and other NGOs to determine most needy communities, he said.

Sunamganj district lies in the haor area where people rely on winter rice plantations for a yearlong supply of their staple food as well as fishing and duck farming. A haor is a bowl-shaped tectonic depression in the floodplains. It receives surface runoff water from rivers and canals, and becomes an extensive, turbulent water body in the monsoon season only to dry up in the post-monsoon period. 

A problem since late March, the current flooding has been caused by a combination of unseasonal heavy rains and an onrush of water from upstream rivers in neighboring India.

Bindu Talukdar, a Sunamganj farmer, said the flooding has destroyed half of his rice fields which cover 4 hectares.

"I cultivate rice for my family and may sales for the whole year come from a single season, so I'm upset and I don't know how I will maintain my family this year. Yet, I consider myself lucky as other people have lost everything. I have been able to salvage about half of my crops," he said.

 

Submerged rice fields in low-lying Sunamganj district in northeastern Bangladesh on April 18. The recent flooding has destroyed thousands of hectares of rice and led to death of fish and ducks. (Photo by Anis Mahmud)

 

About 80 percent of rice fields in Sunamganj have been ruined, said Habibur Rahman, additional deputy director at the Agricultural Extension Department.

"About 135,000 hectares of paddy fields out of total 168,000 hectares have been completely damaged as the flood struck before the rice could ripen," Rahman told ucanews.com.

Fish and ducks have also died from contaminated water, making food security a growing concern for the area's people.  

"Our visit to affected areas suggests at least 150,000 families are living in miserable conditions, while up to 50,000 marginal, landless farmers need emergency aid to survive," said Rahman.

"Total 660 metric tons of rice and 2.6 million taka (US$31,000) have been allocated for flood affected people. We are working in various areas of Sunamganj to purify contaminated water by using limestone to save the fish and the ducks," he said.

 

'Climate change and negligence'

Snal said the unseasonable flooding and massive devastation is a result of climate change and negligence.

"Undoubtedly, this is an impact of climate change and part of the blame should be on authorities for failing to construct and repair dams and dykes in time. The haor region has a single agricultural season and people become helpless when the crops of the year get destroyed. There must be a regular, government support program from people there," he said.

Abdul Karim, secretary of the Sylhet of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, an environmental group, said corruption in related departments is also responsible for flood damage.

"There must be a probe find out why dykes and dams were not ready in time and those responsible should be punished for corruption and negligence," Karim told ucanews.com. 

 

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