Home / Sylhet / Flood hits Sunamganj, Gowainghat

Flood hits Sunamganj, Gowainghat

As flood water gradually engulfed the Dubail Haor in Dharmapasha of Sunamganj after the flood protection embankment protecting the haor gave in on Tuesday afternoon, the entire upazila of Gowainghat in Sylhet went under flood water.

The breach in the flood protection embankment saw the worst fear come true. The breach was also the end of the tireless efforts put in by hundreds of farmers over days and nights since Saturday to keep the haor from being inundated.

‘The flood protection embankment that caved in protected 200 hectares of boro paddy,’ said Bimol Chandra Some, who oversees the government’s agricultural extension activities in Sunamganj.

Only 15 hectares of boro paddy could be harvested, he said, adding that they are trying an alternative way to save the paddies in the haor after the breach in the flood protection embankment at about 5:00pm.

While all eyes were on Sunamganj, Netrakona and Kishoreganj following a flash flood warning, Gowainghat was hit by an unprecedented flash flood on Monday, without almost anyone noticing it, except for those affected by the flood.

Hundreds of hectares of standing boro crop lay submerged in water in Gowainghat on Tuesday, with water rushing through villages and washing away graveyards, mosques and roads, local government officials said.

Flood protection embankments were breached at some places in the upazila amid continued erosion and it all happened in the blink of an eye when the Piyain River swelled over 12 feet on Monday morning.

The Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre had issued two flood alerts since the abnormal swelling of Piyain but it failed to recognise a flood threat from the Piyain overflowing.

‘There has not been any land where flood water did not reach,’ said Tahmilur Rahman, upazila nirbahi officer, Gowainghat.

The extent of the damage caused by the flash flood to infrastructures and agriculture has not been assessed yet but it affected every one as it tore through markets, tea gardens and other infrastructures as well.

The UNO was surprised to see the FFWC bulletin issued on Tuesday in which the Sarigowain River was shown flowing above the danger levels at two points — Gowainghat and Sarighat.

The Sarigowain River is sure to overflow because it lies downstream the Piyain River but the destruction had already occurred before the Sari overflew, he said.

Gowainghat covers Jaflong, a famous bordering tourist destination.

‘The flood has destroyed everything we had. It has destroyed 100 per cent of the crop in the field,’ said Lutfur Rahman Lebu, chair, Purba Jaflong union parishad.

The Piyain began swelling at about 3:00am on Monday and the river gradually engulfed the entire upazila, home to about 2.5 lakh people, by 11:00am, he said.

‘The entire upazila is submerged in water when it was not prepared for a flash flood of this magnitude,’ said Abdus Salam, chair, Pashchim Jaflong union parishad.

A flood of this scale could happen in monsoon in June or July, he said.

Pashchim Jaflong sits on higher ground, he added, compared with other places in the upazila, and is last to get submerged.

‘It would take three days for the water to recede,’ said Salam.

The upazila’s agriculture officer, Raihan Parvez, said that boro was cultivated on 9,500 hectares in haors and 500 hectares were initially estimated to have been submerged in water.

Another 700 hectares of standing boro paddy were already submerged in Sunamganj, Netrakona and Kishoreganj by Monday, where locals worked tirelessly repairing poorly maintained flood protection embankments.

The embankments are weak and have developed cracks at many points, prompting people to use bamboos and sand bags to keep these from expanding.

‘If the water does not recede fast, flood protection embankments may not hold at places,’ Sunamganj deputy commissioner Jahangir Hossain told New Age earlier in the afternoon.

Downstream the Sunamganj area are Netrakona and Kishoreganj where the water levels in the Dhanu and Baulai rivers rose about a centimetre an hour in the afternoon on Tuesday.

A slide in the Kirtonkhola embankment in Netrakona was reported at about 7:00pm. It threatened to flood 6,000 hectares of boro paddy field behind.

FM Mobarak Ali, deputy director of DAE in Netrakona, said that about 500 people aided by excavators were working round the clock to keep the embankment from falling apart.

The Surma River in Sunamganj was flowing just 5 cm below the danger mark at about 9:00am.

The Surma swelled over one metre in the 24 hours until 9:00am on Tuesday, according to the daily bulletin issued by the FFWC.

‘The Surma will not rise anymore,’ said Arifuzzaman Bhuyan, executive engineer, FFWC, adding that the Dhanu and Baulai may become stable by Tuesday.

The rapid swelling of the rivers is a result of 434 mm rain recorded in the 24 hours in Cherrapunji, he said, adding that the next few days would be dry.

Of the 39 river-gauging stations operated by the FFWC, 29 recorded swelling in the river water levels over its 24 hours reporting cycle.

The north-eastern haor region comprising seven districts accounts for a fourth of the country’s over two crore boro output.

The boro harvest in the haor region could begin in the third week of this month but will take until the middle of next month to complete.

Bangladesh will have to protect the boro fields in the north against several spells of extremely heavy rain likely upstream until mid-May.

The pre-monsoon period is flash flood-prone. The north-eastern region geographically constitutes a water bowl where some of the world’s wettest places are drained.

The arbitrary withholding and release of water at barrages across the border by India have complicated the situation further, making flash flood forecasts very difficult.

India’s Meteorological Department forecasted widespread rain in upstream Assam and Meghalaya through Friday.

The occurrence of Gowainghat flash flooding when paddies are almost ripe brings back the memory of the 2017 flood.

In that year, an extreme rainfall triggered a devastating flood in March that affected three-fourths of the north-eastern regions dedicated to mostly rice production.

The 2017 flood forced Bangladesh to import rice, eventually leading to a record rise in the rice price that persisted for months.