that Worsens Disaster
flood is by far one of the worst ones since 1998, where more
than 700 people were killed and 21 million homes were washed
away. The flood of the new millennium has also left millions
homeless. The worst flood-hit places still have chest-high
water. Now the floodwater is receding, but at a snail's pace
because the water has nowhere to go and in this aquatic hell,
various forms of water borne diseases are affecting people
by the thousands. Diarrhoea, a seasonal illness, has reached
epidemic proportions all over the country, especially in the
flood-hit areas. The Health Directorate has recorded over
9000 diarrhoea patients in 38 districts. Fifty-six people
have died since July 12.
the people have taken refuge in flood-shelters while other
unfortunate ones have taken to the footpaths and alleys to
build up temporary abode for their near and dear ones. The
sufferings of these people are unbearable because they not
only lack shelter, but are hungry and in dire need of medical
attention. Even though the government is well aware of what
is happening, relief seems slow and aid that is being distributed
is insufficient to meet the demands of the flood affected.
rivers and lakes in and around Dhaka city are still above
the normal level and most of the dwellers around these rivers
and lakes are living either on the road or on top of their
roofs. For the young street urchins who try to make the best
of a bad situation, it is normal for them to play in the water.
But the water that surrounds them is toxic, a dark blue in
shade, topped with a layer of garbage and swelling sewerage.
The accompanying smell too is overwhelmingly strong only adding
to the sense of ill being.
claims that it is doing its best to keep the situation under
control. Not that breaking a dam or two is of much help. On
the issue of food, an estimated 30 million people need food
aid for about five months, mostly because the agricultural
fields have been submerged in water and the next paddy harvest
will not be ready for at least five more months. Food and
Disaster Management Minister Chowdhury Kamal Ibne Yousuf said,
"I can assure you that nobody would starve or die from
shortage of food. We have enough stocks and we have allocated
those accordingly." (The Daily Star) In the following
days, news reports revealed that the people were rejecting
food aid because the items were rotten and substandard.
Alo report reveals that in Moghbazar and some other places,
WASA staff broke some surface lines while they were digging
storm sewerage lines. Also in Dhaka city alone, thousands
of surface lines have been blocked or have become redundant.
While the authorities are aware that these lines are vital
for clearing the neighbourhood from wasted water and sewerage,
little attention is given to their maintenance. For the 'betterment'
of our utility services, the government authorises regular
digging up of waterlines and deep-water reservoirs. This consistent
probing usually leads to faulty lines that sometimes find
their way to the drinking water line, contaminating it. Such
is the reality in many places where the water from the tap
is noxious. Also in these lines are discarded polythene and
debris, blocking most of the outflow. Could this be the reason
why the water has nowhere to go? Canals that allow the rain
water to seep to the bay have been filled to make room for
this bustling metropolis. Rivers and lakes are being encroached
on a daily basis causing further water logging. Sewerage water
is not being pumped out properly, clogging up lines and sometimes
resulting in sewer water on the main roads. The government
soon sends its people to clear up the 'faulty' drainage and
they are seen to pump out even more sewerage onto the roads.
One problem is solved but what about the repercussions?
are forced to walk through garbage-topped water and swelling
sewerage to lead their daily lives
June in Fakirapur the box-culvert had been cleaned to allow
the water to pass but the clearing operation found a few tons
of polythene. This 6 km box-culvert from Shegunbagicha to
Shahjhanpur is estimated to have hundreds of tons of polythene.
It's very easy to make decisions on the spur of the moment
but until and unless the repercussions are dealt with accordingly,
problems will compound. It is obvious that we have taken few
lessons from past catastrophes. Unless we start to learn and
enforce proper prevention mechanisms floods will continue
to be more devastating than necessary.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004