By Ruslan Rahman
Edited by Arham Ahmed and Adeeb Chowdhury
Unless you’ve been living outside of Bangladesh you probably have experienced flooding this summer. The past few weeks most of Chittagong has been affected by flooding, causing broken roads and people unable to get to work. Flooding has been a major problem in Bangladesh for many years which has caused many people to just learn to “live with it”. People have tried many ways to tackle flooding: using bricks to elevate vehicles to even buying small “noukas” (boats) in many villages. As the sea level continues to rise year after year, one effective way to control and fix flooding is to improve and maintain our hydrology infrastructures.
Many of you might think hydrology infrastructure is hard or complicated topic when it really isn’t. What it means is the maintenance of infrastructure (building, roads, bridges etc.) from water and building structures that help control water levels and flooding. Bangladesh is a developing country and has a long way to go when it comes to infrastructure in general, but I think the government should spend more on hydrology as Bangladesh is really prone to flooding. In 2007 alone, nine million people were rendered homeless due to flooding and approximately 1000 people died from waterborne diseases. Flooding is more prominent in rural areas of Bangladesh which leads to the destruction of tons of crops and houses.
The Bangladesh government does help people with flooding, but they do not do enough to solve this major issue. The government have been giving food aid to the village people in need, people can buy water purification tablets, people help build embankments to help people. These are usually done on a local level. On a global level the Bangladesh government has built embankments, raised food shelters in rural areas, introduced flood signals, and planned to build dams which help prevent rising water. All of them have helped kept many areas and villages from flooding. However, due to global warming and rising sea levels, by 2025, a long period of rainfall would cause most of Chittagong to be underwater. Even today we see the water level in areas like CDA and Halishahar the water level rise to a minimum of 4 feet from the road.
As someone who experiences floods constantly I would like to give a few solutions on how we can solve these issues. As I mentioned improving our hydrology infrastructure is the best way to reduce flooding. By that I mean improve our drainage systems and creating underwater sewers which would create space for the water. One of the biggest benefits of creating underwater sewer’s with entrances on or beside the road is that it would not destroy our roads and bridge infrastructures. A few years back when we had flooding cause the entire Dhaka-Chittagong and Chittagong-Cox’s road to be destroyed. As a country we are spending a lot of money on low quality infrastructures. According to the daily star, the Bangladesh government in last year alone have almost spent 4 crore taka on fixing roads destroyed by flooding. If we spent our money on building drains and sewers we could ultimately save around 2 crores on our infrastructure budget alone in a year.
Building infrastructure to reduce flooding would be great but the biggest problem that our infrastructure here faces is maintenance. Around the world, many countries are experiencing severe infrastructure needs because of growing populations, economic growth, increasing urbanization, and aging assets. The government have been emphasizing on building new infrastructure that would help with rising water levels and flooding but in reality due to limited budget the first step as a developing country is to maintain the current ones we have. Our government in recent years has been neglecting our roads and infrastructures.
In many first world countries they have “Hydrologic Operations,” which are responsible for ‘provincial hydrometric programs’ and ‘climatic station operations’. What this basically means is that creating and operating major flood control infrastructures and to programs to create hydrologic analysis and designs related to infrastructures. For example the Akhtaruzzaman Fly-Over (the flyover in that is being built in Nasirabad. Chittagong) was damaged due to recent raining and flooding and work has been suspended for a while now. What these types of programs will do is help prevent the destruction of ongoing buildings and structures from natural causes.
We’ve talked about problems that we face in cities due to poor hydrological infrastructures but the villages of Bangladesh face problems that are very different from ours when it comes to flooding. One of the main problems that is caused by flooding that is the destruction of crops and houses. A major cause of flooding that many people don’t know about is deforestation. A few weeks ago you might have heard of the story where part of a hill collapsed in Sylhet due to rain and that it destroyed all the buildings and killed several civilians. Due to flooding and deforestation, parts of the hill became weak and unstable which caused it to collapse. Spending money on dams near hill sides and building water reservoirs near high elevations can save buildings from landslides and runoffs in village areas.
As a developing country we have a long way to go when it comes to our infrastructures. If we don’t do something to tackle the rising water levels many people will lose their homes and lives and many as a country we’ll lost a lot of our land. That is why I think hydrology infrastructure is an important issue to discuss.
About the Author
Journalist of Global Environment and Health department