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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Flood Worsening Are We Prepared Enough To Tackle?



When the situation in the country took a terrible turn in the ongoing corona pandemic, cyclone Amphan came and increased the level of disaster. Now the news of new danger for the country is the impending flood. Meteorologists are predicting severe flooding this year. Their prediction is that the flood will be in two stages this year. The first phase of flood will be in July. The second phase of the flood will be at the end of August and the beginning of September.
Flood is an annual phenomenon in Bangladesh. Many districts of the country are affected by flood every year. But sometimes flood exceeds the level of severity. Examples can be given of the flood that occurred in 1988, 1991, 1998, 2004, 2008 and 2017. Of these, 61% area of the country was inundated by the flood in 1988. The flood in 1998 inundated 68% area of the country. The latest flood of 2017 also affected at least 32 districts of the country.
Following the heavy rains in May-June this year and various related indicators, meteorologists are predicting severe flood between July and September. North Bengal is the most flood prone areas in the country. Some districts like Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari and Gaibandha of Rangpur division of the country have already been partially flooded. The risk of flood is clear in Sirajganj, Bogra and Pabna districts of Rajshahi division. Within the next one month, 230 rivers flowing through the country will swell up. Since this year's flood is imminent, everyone must be prepared now.
The government, NGOs, voluntary organizations and above all the people have to play an efficient and planned role in dealing with the flood disaster. These roles can be divided into flood preparedness, flood response and post-flood recovery activities. As part of flood preparedness, the houses of the people in high-risk areas need to be raised with soil. Tube wells and toilets should be installed at higher elevations so as not to create a safe water and sanitation crisis for flood. Snake infestation increases during flood. So it is necessary to buy and store carbolic acid or phenol in glass bottles to repel snakes. If the phenol is actually sprinkled around the house, the snake will not enter the house because of that smell. Moreover, if there are rat holes in the house or yard, these should be closed with soil. Arrangements must be made to repel frogs; because if there are frogs, there is a possibility of snake's coming. As soon as the flood waters start coming, it would be better to buy dry food from the market such as chira-muri, sugar-molasses in proportion to the need. Oral saline and primary medications (such as paracetamol) should be accumulated. Easily portable stoves and dry fuels (like woods) should be kept ready. Small boats should be bought or built if they can afford it. Reservoirs or tanks can be purchased to store safe water during flood. Farmers can build high lofts to store their crops and seeds.
Safe drinking water crisis is created during flood emergencies. If there is no system to collect water from the tube well, the water can be purified using alum or halogen tablets. The water can be purified even after boiling for half an hour. Again, water can be stored in clean containers from 10 minutes after the onset of rain. Either way, there is no substitute for pure water. Contaminated water is very risky for our health. Bathing in flood water and washing clothes can lead to skin diseases. So it would be very good to avoid flood water. Otherwise, use the flood water after purifying. Special attention should be paid to the elderly, children and the disabled in the family; because they are more at risk of drowning in the flood waters. Money, land deeds, student certificates and other necessary documents should be stored safely. And the government, NGOs and voluntary organizations have to play roles in solving the food and transport crisis. But due to the ongoing Corona pandemic, the work of voluntary organizations, especially various university-based organizations, has come to a standstill due to the closure of educational institutions. Region-based volunteers also have to deal with the risk of corona infection. As a result, the activities of social organizations may not be available during the flood like in the ancient years. However, among the readers who are volunteers, I hope they will continue the work of social assistance even during the flood by following the hygiene rules. In case of flood, one boat should be provided for village based haunt and transport of patients. Providing food aid to the needy families will be the most necessary task. All of us should be helpful for this case. At least one day a week on a boat, health counseling should be arranged by doctors and pharmacists and plans should be made to provide necessary medicines to the sick. NGOs, local people's representatives, volunteers and the rich can not keep off in this matter. It must be the responsibility of all. In the aftermath of flood, damaged houses need to be repaired, houses and yards cleaned and sewerage system repaired. It is very good to arrange government assistance and loans by listing the most affected people.
However, long-term measures should be taken to deal with the flood. Dredging measures will be the biggest step to prevent flood. River's water will not flood the river basin if planned dredging is done in the middle of rivers like the Padma, the Meghna, the Jamuna, the Tista etc. The possibility of flooding will be greatly reduced in this way. Moreover, the construction of permanent dams to protect the river bank from erosion must be taken sincerely. Areas at the risk of river erosion should be identified and brought under the dam project on priority basis. Only then it can be possible to protect the settlements inhabited by millions of people and thousands of hectares of crop lands.
Ministry of Relief and Disaster Management is the government agency that is responsible for flood related programs. In the proposed new budget for the fiscal year 2020-21, the Ministry has got an allocation of Tk 9,826 crore. If the government is sincere in carrying out planned and corruption-free relief activities with this money, it will not be difficult to alleviate the sufferings of the flood affected people.
However, there are allegations of extreme corruption in these activities. If corruption is unabated, the projects will be in black and white and implementation will be only a small part of it. In this regard, the law enforcement agencies, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Ministry of Water Resources must have to increase their supervision. In the proposed new budget, the Ministry of Water Resources has allocated Tk 8,069 crore. Hopefully, using this allocated money, the Ministry of Water Resources will undertake a planned and effective project of construction of permanent dams and river dredging and will take initiative to deal with the catastrophic flood in Bangladesh through transparent and corruption-free works.

(Imran Hossen is a student of Pharmacy Department of Rajshahi University).