Severe monsoon floods are being forecasted in our country by the Flood Forecasting and Warning Center and the Institute of Water and Flood Management (IWFM) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). The monsoon is fully active across the entire country. Moreover, heavy rainfall in the upstream areas across the border in the adjacent Indian states of West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura are likely to swell the rivers in Bangladesh, leading to flooding of vast areas of the countryside. It is almost an annual phenomenon, not just a sudden or isolated occurrence. Yet, no permanent and effective measure has been taken to prevent the sufferings of millions of people across the Bangladeshi countryside, year after year.
The capital city Dhaka got flooded in 1988 when even the residence of the then military ruler got inundated. After that, effective measures like flood protection embankments, floodwalls, raised roads along with flood control regulators, sluices, and both temporary and permanent pump houses were put in place to prevent it from happening again in the capital city.The population of Dhaka city and adjacent areas fluctuates between 18 to 20 million due to a large floating population. Just one or two years of flooding of Dhaka led to effective measures to protect the 20 million people of Dhaka from floods. Then the rest 140 million out of the total 160 million population of Bangladesh must not be overlooked year after year.
The rural-urban divide is so evident in almost every sector from health, education, utilities, living standard, livelihood, etc. that it leads one to think that there are two Bangladesh – a developed and prosperous urban and a backward flood and natural calamities prone rural. That is the kind of discrimination within the same country that Bangabandhu fought against so fervently. And so should we.
Advanced satellite imagery and communication technology enable pre-warnings about floods and natural calamities way ahead of time. Most natural calamities are not preventable, but the sufferings of millions of people are avoidable by taking effective steps like building embankments to protect built-up areas of homesteads, granaries, marketplaces, etc. Pre-warnings and protective measures can be considered successful in the country, only when rural homesteads no longer get submerged by floodwaters during the rainy season.