13 years of Sidr, coastal areas still await sustainable dams to escape tidal surge

Cyclonic storm Amphan destroyed the house of Sahida Khan. Currently she lives with her husband and three children at a house built on a dam. As river Kapotakkha is surging due to the effect of Cyclone Yaas, she is in fear losing the last straw in Loka area of Koyra upazila, Khulna on 25 May 2021Saddam Hossain

Even after 13 years, people of Bangladesh’s coastal region are still awaiting construction of stone dams to escape the tidal surge following a cyclonic storm.

As many as three million people from Chor Montaj, in the coastal area, have alleged that despite several appeals to the authorities, the Water Development Board (WDB) had always turned a deaf ear to their pleas.

As Cyclone Yaas is likely to intensify further into a ‘very severe cyclonic storm’, experts said that it may exacerbate the situation due to the full moon and lunar eclipse on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the cyclone and super moon caused five to six feet high tidal waves on the Patuakhali coast of Bangladesh. It flooded the stretch from Barishal to Chattogram.

A warning has been issued as more than five million people across 14 coastal districts are still trapped in the deluge. Hatia, another island of Chattogram, was also inundated.

Natural calamities have been devastating the lives of nearly three million people in the coastal areas of Chor Montaj, Khaleq Sikder ,60, a farmer, Rafiq Mollah,50, a fisherman and Mohammad Bashir 32, another farmer told IANS.

Ward numbers 7,8 and 9 of Chor Montaj island of Rangabali upazila of Patuakhali district of Bangladesh, the coastal area surrounded by the Bay of Bengal, was severely affected by Yaas.

A damaged dam

Experts had earlier warned that around 20 per cent-30 per cent people would be injured in Bangladesh, within a year after the devastation by cyclone Amphan.

An investigation by IANS revealed that there was no official on the spot to lend support to those affected by cyclone Yaas and the subsequent tidal surge. Besides, the cyclone centres were also closed.

Md Mohsin, secretary in the ministry of disaster management and relief, refuted the IANS claim and said that at least 2,000 volunteers are busy in protecting the people of Chor Montaj.

Tidewater enter enters locality as the sea is rough due to cyclone Yaas. Char Anda, Patuakhali on 25 May 2021
Shankar Das

Earlier, Enamur Rahman, minister of disaster management and relief, had claimed that 150 cyclone centres are being prepared for the cyclone-hit people.

About three million people in this area are being severely affected by almost all kinds of natural disasters, but there are no volunteers, government and private officials to help them. Borrobaishdia, Andarchor and two other islands were also inundated but there was no warning message or alert from the authorities.

People in Chor Montaj have been pleading, after cyclone Sidr hit the coastal area in 2007, for building stone dams as protection from the tidal surges during the cyclones.

The mud dams scarred by previous storms are too weak to survive another tidal surge.

A cow waits for its owner to come as surging tidal wave inundates the area

However, after 2007 no one from WDB or the government officials visited Chor Montaj to protect the vulnerable people.

All the paddy lands are flooded by the sea water, the vulnerable people of Chor Montaj are waiting from Tuesday morning for shelter.

Earlier, on Tuesday, deputy commissioner Matiul told IANS that he came to know from Mashfaqur Rahman, the Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Chor Montaj, that they’re using a speedboat to monitor the situation.

Following that Rahman, the UNO told this news agency that 100 people are already in the cyclone centre of ward no. 8 of Chor Montaj.

Later, one Delwar Hossain, claiming to be the former chairman and local president of the Awami league, asked for the identity and whereabouts of the IANS correspondent, asking not to publish any “wrong information”.

When questioned about the number of volunteers, he replied, “I don’t know the number, but volunteers are in each ward.”

13 years of cyclone Sidr, coastal Bangladesh still awaits sustainable dams to escape tidal surge

Several wards of Chor Montaj Union were inundated and have been washed away, due to the breaking of the embankment due to rising sea level and rising air pressure, leaving hundreds of families homeless. Cropland has been submerged.

High winds and floods also caused damage to housing, roads and other infrastructure. Electricity and communications were knocked out, and roads and waterways became impassable. Drinking water was contaminated by debris and many sources were inundated with saline water from tidal surges, the sanitation infrastructure of three wards of Chor Montaj has been destroyed.

But the district authorities denied the real scenario, claiming to send relief, if needed.

Monsoon floods had previously caused extensive agricultural production losses and destruction of physical assets of Bangladesh, totalling nearly 1.1 billion dollars.