The news that floods are receding in three districts gives relief, but should not give place to complacence. There are all signs of heavy rains and floods ahead, and with the onset of monsoon, things are likely to take a turn for the worse. Early rains last year hit hard in April and May. This year there are indications of even heavier rains. The rains along with an onrush of upstream waters can only result in floods.
On Sunday when the embankment at Baroikona of Moulvibazar’s Barahat broke, road communication with Moulvibazar was severed. A part of Moulvibazar town was flooded. Around 25 thousand people of three wards and three unions of the municipality are trapped on all sides by water. Seven people died in the deluge. Over 200 thousand people of the district have been affected. All records of past floods in Moulvibazar have been broken. Even tea gardens have been inundated.
The disaster management and relief minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury on Monday distributed relief goods in the flood-affected area. While speaking to the media at the local circuit house, he said that the flood-affected people would be given all sorts of assistance. He even detailed the allocation of relief goods. But the question remains as to whether the goods will actually reach the flood victims. Social welfare minister Rashed Khan Menon also distributed relief goods at certain shelters. Their immediate response may alleviate the sufferings of the victims, but the government’s responsibility cannot be limited to distributing relief. It must be determined what steps the government has taken to prevent floods.
A sustainable system must be put in place to tackle the floods. One step is preventive, including the construction of embankments and ensuring speedy drainage of flood waters. Secondly, the people must be rescued from the flooded areas.
There have long been allegations of corruption and irregularities when it comes to constructing embankments. It is most unfortunate that the sluice gates constructed along the Moulvibazar embankment were damaged within just a year. While the contractors are to blame for such irregularities, a section of officials of the Water Development Board are also involved. When early floods broke the embankment of the haor area last year, the Anti-Corruption Commission took up the issue and a few persons were punished. However, the big names behind the corruption were protected by their political clout.
This time too, it was the damaged sluice gates that allowed flood waters to enter Moulvibazar. It was erroneous decisions of the government that led to the sluice gates being damaged in just one year. The sluice gates may have been set up to drain out water, but there was no maintenance. The workforce required to maintain the sluice gates were removed during Ershad’s government. Also, 37 canals and drains connected to the haor remain blocked. There is no way for the water to exit. It is essential to restore these canals.
Sylhet and Feni districts have been the most affected by the floods over the last few days. It is necessary to send relief goods to the people there immediately. The floods in Moulvibazar and Feni have been caused by an onrush of waters from Tripura. With the monsoons ahead, there is to be heavier rainfall and waters will flow down from Meghalaya, Assam and West Bengal. Precaution must be taken from now to keep damage and losses at the minimum.