The homes of more than 20,000 people have been completely destroyed by the floodwaters with another 84,000 homes partially damaged. Heavy flooding in southeastern Bangladesh has forced more than 20,000 people from their homes in Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf districts, say local authorities.
When the Bakkhali and Matamuhuri rivers burst their banks most of the displaced sought refuge in the more than 30 cyclone shelters in the low-lying area. The newly displaced add to the more the 400,000 people already forced from their homes and unable to return due to rising floodwaters. When they will be able to return remains to be seen.
So far at least seven people have died in the floods, say the authorities. Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf, both coastal districts, are prone to such disasters. The severity of recent flooding has caught many by surprise. Rice and shrimp farmers have been badly affected by the recent flooding, with damage to the latter sector estimated at over US$3 million so far. The monsoon is a critical farming season and with the seedbeds destroyed. Chakaria, one of the hardest hit sub-districts in the region, provides almost 80 percent of the vegetables in this region. Widespread deforestation of nearby hills and woodlands is the likely causes.
Monsoon rains led to floods in Bangladesh in July 2011. The Associated Press reported that several people had been killed, and about 10,000 people had been displaced by July 22.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired these images on July 25, 2011 (top), and May 26, 2011 (bottom). Both images use a combination of visible and infrared light to increase contrast between water and land. Water ranges from electric blue to navy. Vegetation is green. Clouds are pale blue-green.
The image from late May shows northeastern Bangladesh before the rainy season, which typically starts in June. The Brahmaputra River flows through a braided channel in eastern India and Bangladesh. The image from July 2011 shows that the river’s multiple channels have coalesced, as have the water bodies in easternmost Bangladesh.
As of late July 2011, the Associated Press reported, days of heavy rain had inundated about 200 villages in Bangladesh. Each rainy season, monsoon rains typically flood large parts of the country, and many residents are forced to live on and farm such flood-prone areas. (EarthObservatory)
Flooding is commonplace in Bangladesh, perhaps more so than any other country in the world. The physical setting has always made it prone to flooding but in more recent years the magnitude and impact of flooding has become more severe.
The country is located in a deltaic region formed by the deposition of alluvia by three large river systems: the Ganges, Brahmaputra and the Meghna. These river systems drain a huge basin stretching into the Himalayas in the north and are fed by massive amounts of snowmelt and precipitation. In times of high rainfall this can lead to large amounts of flooding on the delta which covers almost all of Bangladesh, very little of which is any more than 15 m in height. Deforestation on the Himalayan foothills has exacerbated this phenomenon by reducing evapotranspiration and increasing surface runoff, thereby enhancing the rate of soil erosion. This allows many more millions of tonnes of silt to flow into the rivers, where it is deposited and raises the river beds. Alongside this Bangladesh has a humid subtropical monsoon climate which brings between 1000 – 4000 mm of rain per year, sometimes in the form of devastating tropical cyclones. These can cause storm surges along the overpopulated delta, bringing yet more, and often worse flooding to the area.
The population of Bangladesh is rising rapidly. There are currently about 120 million people in area roughly about the same size as the UK. Many of these people populate and farm the fertile but risk prone areas along the banks of the rivers of Bangladesh. As rice is a staple crop in the area some flooding is required to grow the crops, however most of the areas along the river banks have been poorly defended.
In much of the rural areas of Bangladesh people rely on natural levees to keep the flood waters at bay. However these are quite easily breached and as we know, when a levee is breached there can be severe consequences to the local area. Around 5500 km of these types of embankment exist in Bangladesh and in most places these simple structures are all that keeps the floods from the land. Often when the flood water breaks or comes over the tops of these embankments during times of flood it can stay stagnant on the land for many days as it is unable to run back into the water channels. This can have dire consequences on the local area as the warm standing water becomes a breeding ground for water borne diseases.
Dipu Moni, foreign minister, said: “According to scientific estimates, by 2050, some 20 million people in Bangladesh will have to be relocated due to the adverse impact of climate change...”
After the major floods in 1988 that killed almost 2400 people, Bangladesh adopted the World Bank sponsored Flood Action Plan (FAP) that called for the construction of hundreds of kilometres of tall embankments, drains and compartments on the floodplain. Although the need for this sort of protection is undoubted in the large towns and cities of Bangladesh, its effectiveness has been questioned in other areas on technical, environmental, socio-political and ecological grounds. Indeed the actual amount of damage to the economy, crops and infrastructure has steadily increased during the period between 1954 and 1998. The magnitude of a flood in 1998 was such that it lasted for over 70 days, which caused many in Bangladesh to question the effectiveness of previous flood control measures. With this in mind, and a change in political power, local people, farmers and other groups have been granted a greater say in how flooding should and could be managed in Bangladesh. (…)
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