Medical &Health

Officials hope quick respite in Haor ordeal

SUNAMGANJ- Local level key government officials here hope that they would be able to overcome the recent devastation in the haor areas in a few months.

The victims, however, think that they would need at least a year to come out of the ordeal caused from April's flash flood and last Sunday's severe storm.

The subsequent natural disasters in a 30-day span have rendered thousands of people of low-lying areas into poverty as they suffered a massive loss to their Boro paddy from flood, aquatic resources from water toxicity and houses due to tornado.

The District Relief and Rehabilitation Office said they were confident enough to cope up the flash flood issues within the next three months through the government's 100-day assistance programme covering over 1.5 lakh victims alone in Sunamganj.

"Things were going on at the right direction so far relief and rehab programmes are concerned for the flood victims. But the severe storm came as the third blow to us after last month's sudden inundation from flash flood and fish dying from toxicity," said Mahbubur Rahman, Sunamganj District Relief and Rehabilitation Officer.

He, however, hoped that the people of Sunamganj and six other Haor districts would be able to overcome their sufferings in the next three months with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's support and their natural power of resilience.

District livestock, agriculture and fisheries officers have the identical views like the relief officer. They told BSS that the magnitude of the haor problem was not that dense as it was 'projected'.

The government has the ability to solve the problem and there was no need to declare haors as 'disaster affected area' as demanded by NGOs and some others, they observed.

Initially, they said, the government has taken up a special support progrmme for 100 days for the flood victims with 100 kg of rice and Taka 1,500 cash for each family to buy essentials. In addition to this, the regular vulnerable group feeding (VGD) and the gracious relief (GR) programmes would go hand in hand. If needed, the special programme would be continued for more months.

"In addition to relief and rehabilitation supports, the agriculture department has been promoting the idea among the haor people to go for 'Aman' paddy cultivation in relatively high lands to offset Boro losses," said an official of the agriculture extension department. 'Aman' can be an auxiliary crop for the haor people, who depend on only one crop, Boro, in a 12-month cycle.

Mostafa Mia, Sunamganj Sadar Upazila Fisheries Officer, said the haor people have an inbuilt resilience power to face nature and they have been practicing it for centuries. As a result, he said, the victims did not leave their areas and move to cities for work.

"They (victims) are staying in their respective haors and trying to rebuild their lives and livelihoods afresh," he said, adding that the haors had suffered hardly 10 percent fish resource losses this year compared to a normal productive year.

A total of 49.75 metric tons of fish perished in 84 haors in Sunamganj, but much more fish would be produced from open water carp fish cultivation in a few months, said the fisheries officer.

Despite a great hope among the officials, the flood victims feel that they have to wait until April next year to overcome this year's massive loss since 'Boro' is their only crop produced once in a year.

"I cannot cry even. We are in a nightmare now. Please write for us and urge the government to do more," said Billal Miah, who lost his full harvest in floods and a tin-shed house by storm within a month.

He expressed his gratitude to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her love and compassion for the haor people.

Mohim Das, a 91-year old, earlier also said they have been swimming in the 'waters of frustration' due to loss of food and livelihoods, and could hardly see any ray of hope until the next year. The senior citizen said the Prime Minister's relief would save them from further borrowing of microfinance.

The calamity-hit people requested the government to continue relief operations for a year and extend other supports for long-term rehabilitations. One of them, Tokdir of Shalla upazila, said promotion of eco-tourism in haor areas can be a long-term solution.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Shalla, one of the hard-hit areas, on Sunday and promised to do her best to support the haor victims. The supports include: waiver of the interest on agriculture loans, distribution of fertilizers, seeds and other agriculture inputs, distribution of rice and cash, subsidy for electricity, and to take a long-term master plan to turn the haor areas into an economic resource hub.

Official statistics show as many as 850,088 families of 62 upazilas under Sunamganj, Sylhet, Habiganj, Moulvi Bazar, Netrokona, Kishoreganj and Bharhmanbaria districts were affected by the flash floods. Just a month later, the severe storm of Sunday night again rattled the haor areas and damaged thousands of houses and injured 84 people alone in Sunamganj.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)