By Sumi Khan
Bangladesh State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief, Md. Enamur Rahman has said that the country’s third stage flood situation has worsened in the Brahmaputra and the Ganges basins.
“The whole region is flooded, as we are down the tide. After July 27, the water will start to recede and the flood situation may improve in the next 24 hours,” the Minister told IANS in an exclusive interview on Saturday.
“If there is a tide in the sea, the water level in the central region may decrease as per the forecast.
“We are continuing the relief assistance activities under the leadership and guidance of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,” he added.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: It is around a month that 50 per cent of Bangladesh is flooded. The government is not able to control the flood flow, what do you think?
A: Floods happen every year in our country, it’s a regular phenomenon. The upstream water goes to the Bay of Bengal through our rivers. Incessant rise of water in most of the rivers in the Ganges and Brahmaputra basins, triggered by heavy downpour and onrush of water from the upstream, further deteriorated the flood situation in Rajshahi and Rangpur regions.
Q: What is the latest flood forecast?
A: The water levels in the existing rivers rose at 11 points and have only receded at two points in most of the districts of Rajshahi division aggravating the flood situation in the ‘char’ (river bed) and other low-lying areas of Sirajgonj, Bogura, Natore, Naogaon, Chapainawabganj and Rajshahi districts.
Q: So you were not prepared for the flood? Almost all the dams have broken, upstream water has flooded so much, houses and crops in many areas have been washed away by the severe floods.
A: Dam related matters are the responsibility of Water Development Board (WDB) and not under my Ministry.
Q: Work may be different, Ministry may be different. But there has to be coordination. If not, the people have to pay compensation for the flood damage for months. Whole country has to pay. And your ministry has to take the most responsibility to overcome the flood crisis.
A: Yes, but wherever the dam is breaking, WDB is building onee on an emergency basis. Repairing efforts continued. Our job is relief management. We are doing that.
Q: How much relief is being given in how many districts so far?
A: Up to 30 districts have been affected by the floods. We have allocated about 10,960 metric tons of rice, with over 3 crore taka distributed. Specially for the baby food from the government, we have distributed 58 lakh taka. And 1.8 lakh packets of dry food have been distributed. A family of flood-affected people will be able to eat these dry foods for eigh-10 days. And also 1.44 lakh taka has been given for the cattle feed.
In addition to corrugated iron, various housing materials have been provided for home repair
Q: Many flood-affected areas have not been properly listed – the flood victims complained. Such allegations have revealed a lack of coordination among the government.
A: Over 37 lakh people are still trapped in the floodwater. The government has opened 1,629 shelter centres under the direct supervision of Prime Minister Hasina. But only 75,360 people have come to take shelter among the flood victims.
Q: Crops, cattle, houses, schools all have all been washed away by the floodwaters. But why didn’t a large part of the endangered people come to the government’s shelter? What information did you get?
A: Many of the victims are not going to government shelters in order to stay away from COVID-19. Flood-stricken people in some areas are terrified that they might be infected due to the large number of people at the shelters. Relief activities are being conducted by the Ministry of Disaster and Relief.
Q: Are you ready to build new settlements after the floodwaters recede?
A: We had two meetings after receiving the flood forecast. The Ministry of Disaster and Relief with the list of the destruction and damage caused by the flood will discuss in the next meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Committee and Disaster & Relief Management. The team will collect the reports from all the ministries. Based on this, it will be planned on how to overcome the flood damage this time.
Q: It is a lengthy process to save the distress people.
A: No, we will take steps to rehabilitate and replace the Flood affected people within 7 days after the Recede.
Q: Outbreaks of various diseases increase during and after the flood. Still, the children of the flood-affected area are not getting any medical support for aiarrhea and skin diseases. If these infectious diseases are not treated on time, the flood-affected people of Bangladesh will be infected with another pandemic besides COVID-19. Do you have any medical support for this situation?
A: Yes, more than 600 medical teams have been formed in each district, led by the civil surgeons. Water purification tablets have been provided to the workers who are working with the flood victims in the shelter centre. Medicines needed to prevent these diseases will be provided.
Q:Four million people in Bangladesh are affected. How long will the flood continue?
A: If there is no tide, the flood may recede from all parts of Bangladesh within the first week of August. The water level will increase for two more days in 16 districts. After increasing until July 27, it will start decreasing gradually.
The north and northeast of Bangladesh will quickly become flood-free. But it will take time for the floodwaters in Manikganj, Shariatpur, Madaripur, Munshiganj, and Chandpur areas to recede. I hope, after August 1, the floodwaters will go down of those flooded areas.
Q: It’s raining every day. Are you optimistic about overcoming this crisis?
A: Of course, I’m. I would like to inform the flood-affected people that Prime Minister Hasina is always by your side. She is supervising the activities all the time, giving us instructions. So I am hopeful that this time also we will overcome the crisis.