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     Volume 6 Issue 23 | June 15, 2007 |

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News Notes

Downpours in the Country
Mother Nature went berserk last week when she let loose her wrath in the country. For hours at a stretch, a downpour of 103 millimetres paralysed Dhaka. Passengers abandoned their vehicles and along with roadside pedestrians struggled to get to safety through the knee length waters on foot. Many parts of the country especially the northern districts of the country were disrupted with the chaos.
In Dhaka the rising water inundated houses and shops in several areas of the city inflicting heavy economic losses on business owners and leaving thousands of householders to mop up the damage.
Among those most seriously affected were office workers attempting to get to their jobs. Stuck in the gridlock caused by the flooded streets, thousands were forced to abandon buses and cars and plough through the inundated roads, often barefooted.
Several office goers who were not aware of the commotion that was going to hit them, were stranded midway on their way to work. One such officer goer described her long and painful journey from her home to her workplace, a distance, which would be covered within 30 minutes on normal days, took her more than 2 and a half hours to reach.
Another office worker said it had taken him more than three hours to make the four kilometre journey from Dhamondi to Karwan Bazaar by car, a journey that normally takes 15-20 minutes.
Lots of hours of working time were lost, most people being stranded on the streets just looking for a way out of the heavy downpour.
The food and disaster management ministry asked the electronic media to broadcast special bulletins on the natural calamity and the government set up control rooms at all deputy commissioners' (DC) offices in the coastal belt, an area which usually bears the brunt of cyclones. The flooding revealed the inadequacies of Dhaka's drainage system. Water and Sewerage Authority (Wasa) sources said the battered system can only cope with 10 millimetres (mm) of rainfall per hour and rainfall in excess of this means water logging is inevitable. Among the areas of the city worst affected were Mirpur, Bashabo, Goran, Azimpur, Dhaka University, Dhamondi, Minto Road, Press Club and High Court area, Maghbazar, Shantinagar, Mowchak and the old parts of the city.
For the last few years, the government has been trying to solve the problems of water logging. Surprisingly enough, water logging and flooding has been a common issue every year during summer and should not come as a shock to anybody residing in Bangladesh. In fact, many office goers and people living in Dhaka claimed that the Caretaker Government should now seriously take proper measures so that similar problems can be tackled in the future. Some even went to the extent of saying that in a country like Bangladesh, every household should own Wellington boots and raincoats instead of umbrellas.

Disaster Looms Over the Port City
Torrential rains caused a series of landslides in the port city of Chittagong last week leaving 84 people dead and over 60 injured. Sources, however, claim that there are more bodies to be recovered by the rescue squad which consists of police, army, firefighters as well as volunteers. What is said to be the heaviest rainfall in a quarter of a century, with a recorded total of 227 mm in 24 hours according to the Chittagong Met office, caused tides of earth, water and debris coming down from hillsides around the city to bury families under their thatched and mud roofs. Rescue teams searched all day for bodies and people trapped in their hillside homes near Chittagong Cantonment. Unfortunately, intermittent rains suspended the search party in the evening.
In addition to the lives taken by the landslides, the low-lying areas of the city are waterlogged because the rain water could not pass on to the Karnaphuli river as a result of the tidal surge. The rest of the city came to a standstill with power supply cut off and the airport and the seaport inoperative due to the heavy floods. Cargo handling at the port was suspended and left for the next day. Businesses, shops and schools have closed down as not only are people not able to get around but also, their goods and merchandise are ruined thanks to the heavy downpours that started on Friday and is expected to last until early September according to the met office. Sources say that seven power substations were cut due to rain, but five out of seven were up and running by late afternoon that same day.
Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed expressed deep shock for those victimised in the floods and the loss of lives. He urged the authorities to take measures for rescuing the remaining survivors and providing relief for those affected. The government has announced that it will provide Tk 9 lakh and 200 metric tons of food grains, while the district administration distributed dry food for immediate relief and support for the victims.

Pictures of the Week
Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain
Photo: PID

Mindless destruction of the country's forests has been going on for long. The recent arrest of Osman Gani, Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF), is a testimony to that; while the CCF has amassed a huge fortune for himself (and his wife, who never used a car for more than six months), the culture of felling trees, the lifeline in our fight against climate change, is going on unabated. One picture shows that the guardians of Dhaka University (DU), our highest body of learning, have also joined hands with unscrupulous businessmen to make a tree-free country. What is most amazing is that the DU authorities have decided to fell trees for a new Mathematics department building when a National Tree-Planting Movement is going on (The Chief Adviser is seen in the other photograph plating a sapling). Modern Architecture has long been incorporating nature into its form to create an environmentally friendly society, the guardians of the DU must know how ugly and ungainly its recent decision to destroy these trees look. We would have understood if it had been done by some shady looter of a businessman or bureaucrat bent on encroaching a huge acre of land, but Dhaka University authority? The sky is the limit, it seems, to thoughtless development.

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