Cyclone Remal: Relief, rehabilitation should be geared up 

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

Cyclone Remal has mainly swept over the coastal areas but left its impacts all over the country.  According to the official data, a total of 3.7 million people have been affected in 19 districts, though the number of actual victims is more.

At least 12 people have died after being trapped under collapsed walls and trees during the cyclone,while four have been electrocuted in Dhaka. A staggering 35,483 houses were destroyed completely, while another 114,992 suffered partial damages.

The number of victims does not reflect the total losses caused by cyclone Remal. An extended period of heavy downpours and gusty winds have destroyed crops and flooded fish enclosures in rural areas and caused severe water stagnation in Dhaka, Chattogram and some other cities. The power connection could not be restored in some areas, even after 24 hours of the cyclone. 

There was a time when the people in the northern region used to suffer from mangas (seasonal famines). Now, lives have been tougher for the people residing in the coastal areas due to the adverse impacts of climate change and other natural calamities. They suffer from cyclones almost each year.

The government made adequate preparations before the disaster. A good number of shelters were opened in the coastal areas so that the vulnerable people can take refuge before the cyclone. The coastal people went to shelters before cyclone Remal. 

But they face the harsh reality after returning from the shelter as many of them find their belongings damaged, residences destroyed, and sources of drinking water contaminated. It is imperative to ensure supply of relief and drinking water to them. 

Sometimes, the local administration and public representatives show negligence in executing their duties. The losses are not assessed accurately, and there are serious allegations of nepotism and undue political favour in the distribution process of relief items. 

It has been proven again that the Sundarbans can save Bangladesh and its people from cyclones. It will not be fair to do anything that may damage or destroy the largest mangrove forest. Recently, thousands of trees were burnt in a fire in the Sundarbans. 

Following the Sundarbans, it is the embankment that saves the lives and livelihoods in the coastal areas during natural calamities. A fuss over repairing the embankment is a common phenomenon after every natural calamity, but no effective and sustainable steps are taken to repair the embankment. 

The embankments survived undamaged in Satkhira during cyclone Remal, but those of Bhola, Patuakhali, Barguna, Khulna, and Bagerhat suffered substantial damages. A 10-kilometer stretch of the 1,300 kilometer embankment in Patuakhali is reported to be in a dilapidated state, which indicates the authorities’ negligence to these regions.

The government spends millions of taka for different unproductive sectors. So it’s not credible that it doesn’t have the money to build this 10-kilometre embankment. Many don’t have confidence in the government that it will take actions to repair the embankment in the shortest possible time. So after the disaster, the affected people themselves started repairing the damaged embankment

We expect that the government will be prompt to determine the amount of damage from the cyclone and provide the affected people with necessary reliefs. We hope that the government will provide the people, who lost their houses as well as financial assistance to farmers and fish farmers so that they can bounce back from the damage they endured due to the cyclonic storm.