Sat, 15 June 2024
The Daily Ittefaq

As Cyclone Remal approaches, tension grips Bagerhat’s coastal areas

Update : 24 May 2024, 15:13

For generations, thousands of people have been living at risk along the coast in Bagerhat. When the water levels rise, parts of Rampal, Mongla, and Morrelganj upazilas are flooded and water enters homes, leaving them in suffering.

The existing embankments are relatively low, so they overflow during high tides, causing residential areas to flood. During storms and tidal surges, the suffering of locals in these areas becomes unbearable.

The news of Cyclone Remal approaching has caused anxiety among the locals. To address their concerns, the Water Development Board has proposed constructing 185 km of new embankments in various areas of the district.

Among the existing embankments, 16 kms are in a vulnerable condition. To ensure safety during disasters, 359 shelters have been prepared that can accommodate 266,051 people.

Previously, super cyclones like Sidr, Aila, Amphan, Mora, Bulbul, and Fani left the coastal area residents of Bagerhat in a state of constant fear.

Despite knowing the risks, thousands of people in Sarankhola, Rampal, Morrelganj, and Mongla upazilas still reside along the riverbanks. Particularly in parts of Rampal, Mongla, and Morrelganj, the absence of embankments by the Water Development Board results in immediate flooding of residential areas whenever the tide rises.

The trauma of losing possessions and relatives has left these people perpetually anxious about disasters. Following Cyclone Sidr, their demand was for durable embankments. However, sustainable embankments have not yet been established in coastal areas. These residents have urgently called for the construction of durable embankments along the riverbanks. 

On the night of November 15, 2007, Sidr's 15-16 feet high tidal surge destroyed the Baleshwar River embankment in Sarankhola, devastating village after village under four unions of the upazila. Children, adults, houses, livestock, fishing nets, and boats were washed away.

The tidal surge not only affected Sarankhola but also caused 100 kms of riverbank embankments to be washed away in various coastal areas, including in Bagerhat.

According to government records, Sidr’s rampage and tidal surge claimed 709 lives in Sarankhola alone. However, unofficial sources suggest the death toll was much higher.

Several riverbank residents in parts of Bagerhat expressed that they experience an unknown fear whenever they see clouds in the sky or water levels rising.

With no alternative, they are compelled to build homes on the riverbanks and live with their families. The news that Cyclone Remal might hit the coast has raised their anxiety levels. They believe that sustainable embankments would protect them from tidal surges. However, no embankments have been constructed yet, and they have urged the government to build them promptly.

Abu Raihan Mohammad Al-Biruni, Executive Engineer of the Bagerhat Water Development Board, informed that there are a total of 338 kms of embankments in the district.

Of them, only 65 kms in Sarankhola and Morrelganj have been constructed sustainably. Currently, 16 kms of embankments in Bagerhat Sadar, Morrelganj, and Sarankhola are in a vulnerable state, with 8 kms being highly vulnerable, he said. 

At present, repairs are underway for 460 meters of the embankment in the Bagi and Southkhali areas of Sarankhola along the Baleshwar River, Abu Raihan said.

The engineer further said that there are no embankments constructed by the Water Development Board in Rampal and Mongla upazilas. Whenever the tide rises, water floods the residential areas. Proposals for constructing 185 kms of embankments along the riverbanks in various upazilas have been sent. These proposals are currently under consideration by the relevant ministry. If the embankments are constructed, they will protect the coastal residents of Bagerhat from tidal surges, the engineer said.

He also informed that 273 kms out of the total 338 kms of embankments were not built sustainably. When these embankments were constructed decades ago, their height from sea level was 4.3 meters.

However, the height of the embankments has decreased by one meter or more in some places over time. When the tide rises above normal levels, water overflows the embankments, he said. 

Md. Khalid Hossain, Deputy Commissioner of Bagerhat, said that they made all necessary preparations to face the potential Cyclone Remal.

A total of 359 cyclone shelters have been prepared across the district’s nine upazilas, he said, adding that these shelters can accommodate 266,051 people along with their livestock during the disasters.

Moreover, Tk 550,000 in cash and 643.400 metric tonnes of rice have been stockpiled. Across the district, 3,180 members of the Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP), along with nearly 500 members from the Red Crescent, Rover Scouts, BNCC, and volunteer organizations, are ready, he pointed out.

Based on the meteorological department's signals, subsequent measures will be taken, said the DC.

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