Super Cyclone Amphan - People ask for a strong and sustainable embankment

Published on
May 26, 2020

The Super Cyclone Amphan hit southwest Bangladesh on May 20th 2020 with a total death toll of 85 (21/05/2020) in India and Bangladesh. The damages are great. The financial damage is estimated to rise to BDT 11,000 million in Bangladesh alone. The Satkhira, Bagerhat and Patuakhali districts are the most affected among 26 coastal districts of Bangladesh. A total of 1100 km of roads and 200 bridges and culverts were damaged by the cyclone in the affected districts. Additionally, 150 km of embankments in 84 places have been damaged due to heavy storm surge and tidal water pressure in the region. The cyclone uprooted countless trees and left chaos in its wake.

The super cyclone leaves thousands of people homeless in the affected areas particularly in the southwest Bangladesh. There is an additional issue saltwater intrusion and water-logging. Many people are living in a small boat or a flooded house, as they are not interested in staying the in the cyclone shelters due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Agriculture lands and shrimp farms are now underwater. This will have a long-term impact on the livelihoods of the inhabitants of coastal Bangladesh. For example, Satkhira district, in the southwest, is famous for its mango supply. However, the cyclone has damaged major portion of matured fruits and as well as the trees. Mr Iftekharul Alam, a PhD student of Wageningen University working in Satkhira district, reported that a mango orchard owner was crying over the phone when talking with Mr. Alam after the cyclone. The orchard owner used to sell mangoes to Mr. Alam every year but now has an uncertain future.  Also  the vegetable farmers and betel leaf farmers are in despair, as their crops and livelihood has been washed out by the cyclone.  

Many people in the affected districts do not have access to safe drinking water, food and sanitation facilities. In many localities, Local NGOs have been providing food and drinking water to the floating people. And work together with the villagers and governmental agencies  to repair the embankments. However, the areas have been flooded due to breakdown of weak embankments. Local people claim that the responsible authorities did not repair the embankments in time although their weak state was repeatedly shared with the authorities. Interestingly, the currently flooded areas were also flooded during super cyclone Sidr 2007, during Cyclone Aila in 2009. When the government and humanitarian agencies approached  with food and drink after cyclone Amphan, people are shouting: “we don’t needs food, we want sustainable embankment”

WaterApps contribution to cyclone preparation

 WaterApps project team disseminated the cyclone information at study villages mid-April, long before the cyclone hit. That time we warned the local farming communities about the cyclone formation in the Bay of Bengal and its expected hit in May 2020. We mainly communicated and disseminated the information with the peri-urban farmers in our study villages. Based on that information all our study farmers harvested their paddy before the cyclone hit. Beyond that, our study farmers and the WaterApps virtual communities shared the information with a number of nearby villages who were also able to harvest their ready paddy a week before of the cyclone. No farmers at our study villages reported crop, livestock and structural damages due to the cyclone. Something made possible because of advance preparation based on forecasted information from Waterapps virtual communities.

by: Uthpal Kumar, Spyros Paparrizos, Joreen Merks