Why is it raining so much?
Global climate change is a big reason behind it. Greenhouse gas is increasing and the global temperature is also on the rise. More water vapour is being created. On the other hand, the Pacific Ocean is in ‘La Nina’ state, which causes incessant rain. The ‘La Nina’ state has been there for the last two years. This region is far from the Pacific Ocean. But there is a teleconnection between this special state of the Pacific Ocean and occurrences happening in different regions of the world. Moreover, ‘El Nino’ causes droughts in the Indo-Pacific region. But another reason for this flood is the change in the way we use the land. New establishments are being built, deforestation is happening. These things are also playing a part in it. The amount of sediment is also increasing, which doesn't go away easily. There are many other causes behind floods. Earlier, the flood water would come down easily, but now that’s not happening. The floods are continuing for longer periods.
Sylhet region has faced floods multiple times recently. What’s the reason behind repeated floods? Is constructing infrastructure in Haor region a reason behind it?
Flood is recurrent in Bangladesh due to its geographical characteristics. Obviously heavy rain also causes floods. Sylhet has been hit by flood twice this year and both are severe. Such a severe flood is unusual in the month of May. However, it just happened this time. One of the main reasons for the flood this time is the rains due to the cyclone Asani. The cyclone moved through the Odisha region of India. The circulation of the cyclone created excessive humidity over the Meghalaya region. There was heavy rain as an impact of this, which caused the flood in Sylhet in May. And now the monsoon has become active. Rains in the hills are common at this time. Water vapour gets obstructed by the hills and goes upward and gets condensed. And later the vapour turns into raindrops.
The water in Meghalaya comes to the haor regions. Haors are like bowls where water accumulates. Later, it falls into the Bay of Bengal via the Meghna river.
The infrastructures being constructed in the haor regions are not causing this flood. However, it will stretch the duration of the flood. The infrastructures should be submersible. Some roads have been constructed in the haor regions, especially the road in Mithamoin has drawn a lot of attention. But this is not the only reason behind the flood this time. The government now is talking about constructing flyovers, which is an untimely decision I believe. It would have been better if it was done before. However, in case of communication between two upazilas in the haor region, there is no other way than the construction of roads on many occasions. However, the infrastructure should be constructed as per the needs of the area. In some places, infrastructures should be submersible and while in other places flyovers will be more appropriate.
At the beginning of the month the Met Office predicted a flood by the middle of month. Did we have enough preparation to tackle such kinds of floods?
I would say the preparation was not complete. Probably, we couldn’t even imagine such a severe flood. The food storages have been damaged by the flood this time. Therefore, it is clear that these infrastructures are not flood-resistant.
On the other hand, although it was forecasted, we probably did not even think of such a heavy rain. We have some reputation in disaster management. However, our disaster management system is more effective in saving lives than saving properties.
For the flood forecast, we may extend our collaboration with international agencies, especially with agencies in India. This must be done as the two countries are in the same basin. There are questions as to how much of this is done.
Several power infrastructures have been affected by the flood this time. What should be considered while constructing such infrastructures?
I have already said the food storages have been damaged due to the flood. The flood related risk factors should be considered while constructing important infrastructures like power substations. We need to realise that we are passing through the process of climate change. Therefore, we must have long term planning for the construction of infrastructure. We have to take climate change related risk factors into account. This is reality. We will face more severe losses in future if we ignore this. And regarding the preparations, I must say it was not enough.
What sort of preparation do you think should be taken to tackle such sudden floods? What are your recommendations?
We can talk about two types of preparations. The first one is the infrastructural preparation. This includes dam, dredging, diversion, and construction of switch-gate. And other initiatives include advance notice as well as the construction of flood shelters at a higher rate. Crop insurance for floods can be an initiative. And there should be a massive initiative in exchanging information with neighbouring countries. And in many cases, the government does not have inter-ministerial coordination. That must be increased. We need to increase people's involvement. We experienced catastrophic floods in 1988 or 1998. The cooperation of the people there was outstanding. But that has decreased a lot. Initiative must be taken to engage more people.
*This interview appeared on the online version of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy and Ashish Basu