With hills, hillocks, tea gardens, waterfalls, wetlands, swamps, marshes called haors and beels in this part of the world, Sylhet has a unique and contrasting topography. Although haors experience flash floods of varying intensity almost every year, the highlands there hardly come under such severely rushing inundation as the city proper and 13 upazilas have done this year. Although people’s sufferings know no bounds because residents in the affected areas had to leave their homes for temporary shelters, the extent of human sufferings failed to receive the attention it deserved. In fact, unrelenting price hikes of essentials have relegated the issue, like other important developments, to the back burner. But there are low-income people in Sylhet and Sunamganj too and the floods have wrought havoc with crops, many people’s sources of income such as livestock, fish farms etc.
Both the top notches of the administration and local officials strangely maintained a silence over the ordeal of the flood victims. It was a kind of apathy rarely shown towards natural calamity-afflicted people in this country. However, there was one disconcerting piece of news about the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examinees. When a TV channel wanted to know about their preparation for the next month’s exam (starting June 19), a few of the displaced candidates demanded that their examinations be shifted to a later date because they cannot study in their temporary shelters and also many of them have lost their books to or left damaged by the flood waters.
Now that the water has started receding from Sylhet city and other places from Sylhet and Sunamganj, the local administrations of both Sylhet and Sunamganj have come up with a rough estimate of the damage caused to agriculture, fish farms and livestock. Approximately the loss has been estimated to the tune of Tk 11 billion with Sylhet’s share in the total of Tk10 billion and Sunamganj’s just 1.0 billion. The amount of loss may go up when waters recede completely. Loss on account of infrastructural —roads and bridges—damage has been higher (almost two-thirds) than those of other sectors. This means damage to public property including educational institutions has topped the list. Disrupted communications means economy there is likely to sufferer longer than in case the communications network survived the calamity. So the rehabilitation programme has to get its priority right. First of all, loss sustained by the educational institutions has to be taken care of in order to restart classes in full steam. Then bridges and roads have to be repaired gradually depending on their public utility.
So far as post-flood relief and rehabilitation of the poor and others are concerned, the best way to serve public interests is to make arrangement for pure drinking water, oral saline, medical camps and some common medicines to fight water-borne diseases. If the reconstruction and repair of roads and bridges are started soon after recession of waters, the working class people made more vulnerable now will have some means of income. So here is an area to reap a double benefit from. Last but not least, the floods this time may be a prelude to more such natural calamities occurring all across the world on account of climate change. Let there be enough preparation for such damage and disasters.