Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name? That we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” How true are the words of the Bard! A tropical cyclone recently lashed along the long coastal regions of the Bay of Bengal causing incessant downpour in West Bengal and almost all the districts of Bangladesh, literally bringing normal day to day living to a grinding halt from Friday onwards. Though the cyclone was named Bulbul, like the sweet singing bird of that name, it could not change its devastating nature.
What truly saved the day for Bangladesh was the prized mangrove belt of the Sundarbans – meaning the beautiful forest, which has acted as a natural barrier against cyclones for the low-lying deltaic plains of Bangladesh since time immemorial. The severity of the storm was absorbed by the Sundarbans, like a mother standing guard in front of her children, taking the most severe lashings till the anger of the storm lessened before entering habitation.More than three lakh people in coastal Bangladesh were moved to safety in preparation for Cyclone Bulbul hitting the coastline of the Bay of Bengal. Services at the seaports and airports in the region were also suspended. The biggest sea ports of Bangladesh, Mongla and Chittagong, were closed and flights to and from Chittagong airport were halted. But the closure of transport hubs left thousands of tourists and other people stranded on off the coast islands at St Martin's in Bangladesh.
Low-lying coasts of Bangladesh are often hit by deadly cyclones, but the country has successfully reduced the number of casualties in recent years. Early cyclone warning systems have improved, giving authorities more time to evacuate people. More cyclone shelters have also been constructed to protect local residents but many more are required to make it foolproof.
The massive preparatory operation started after weather experts warned that “Bulbul” could be as deadly as the one that hit Bangladesh in 1991 killing more than 200,000 people and destroying properties worth billions of dollars, including air force fighter planes, on the Chittagong coast. It was one of the deadliest on record so far.
The ‘Bulbul experience’ should teach us to take more care of the Sundarbans – the greatest endowment of nature bestowed upon us as a natural protective shield from all calamities from the sea.