Rising tides again destroy livelihoods in Bangladesh’s coastal areas

40-metre dam breaks in Sathkira; Difficult to survive after repeated losses, say residents   

By Rafiqul Islam Montu
Published: Tuesday 19 July 2022
Houses in Barguna district’s Nishanbaria area submerged by water from high tides. Photo: Rafiqul Islam Montu

Houses in the coastal areas of Bangladesh have submerged once again due to high tides and overflowing rivers, putting lives and livelihoods at risk. 

Several districts in the country were severely affected by flash floods in May and June that had left millions destitute.

The tidal water has increased abnormally over the entire coastal region over the last few days due to the effect of the full moon, locals said. Many villages near the sea line are submerged and families have taken shelter on the streets.

Read more: DTE Ground Report: Millions left destitute in northeastern Bangladesh three weeks after floods

On July 14, a 40-metre embankment on Kholpetua river in Satkhira district broke due to tidal pressure, submerging nearby areas. The embankment was located in Shyamnagar Upazila’s Durgabati village. 

Residents said most areas of the Burigoalini Union are inundated with tidal water twice a day. Shrimp and crab farmers in the area have suffered huge losses. 

“We cannot continue to live here in such conditions,” said Swapan Chandra Halder of Porakatla village. 

Halder’s village is on the western part of coastal Bangladesh. His shrimp farms were submerged in the sudden high tide. 

Repeated losses have left him penniless and massively indebted. “Every year, the people of this region face massive natural calamity,” he said. 

The people of this area were severely affected by Cyclone Sidor in 2007, Cyclone Aila in 2009 and Cyclone Fani in 2019. Cyclone Bulbul also struck in the same year, along with Cyclone Amphan in 2020 and Cyclone Yas in 2021.

Geeta Rani Mandal of Durgabati village has lost about 40,000 Bangladeshi Taka on her crab farm. Her house is also submerged. 

Her family cannot sustain repeated damages as they are small farmers, Mandal added. 

The work on fixing the dam has already begun, Abul Khair, executive engineer of Water Development Board, Satkhira. However, the work had to be paused due to the pressure of the tide. All coastal rivers are flowing above the danger level, Khair added.

Why the floods are happening 

The low-pressure area in the north-west Bay of Bengal and adjoining Odisha-West Bengal coast has merged with the monsoon axis, according to Bangladesh Meteorological Department. 

The monsoon is fairly active over Bangladesh and moderately active in the north Bay of Bengal.

Climate change is causing a rise in the sea levels, said international climate expert Atiq A Rahman. 

“Tidal pressure is more forceful due to climate change,” said Rahman. “Moreover, the tidal water naturally rises during the full moon.”

The rains in India’s Meghalaya also have an effect. “The rainwater from Meghalaya is not able to reach the sea because of river silt and infrastructure. As a result, the tides due to the full moons is drowning villages in coastal areas. 

Tidal water have entered three divisional cities of Chittagong, Khulna and Barisal in the coastal region of Bangladesh. 

Chittagong had no rain for the past few days and saw an intense heatwave. 

“The flow of water in 23 rivers of Barisal division is usually monitored. The water in 10 rivers is overflowing right now and many lower areas have submerged,” said Masum, deputy assistant engineer of Water Development Board, Barisal. 

Areas like Chaktai-Khatunganj, Achadganj, Agrabad CDA residential area, Nimtali, Fakir Hat, Gosaildanga and Shantibagh areas are overrun with garbage and water from the drains. 

“The rise in tidal water is unusual this time, said Jamal Hossain, organizing secretary of Khatunganj Trade and Industries Association. “People have suffered a lot,” he said. 

The waterlogging in the lower areas of Barisal city also trapped many people inside their houses. 

Coastal areas along the Meghna river in Lakshmipur have been inundated with tidal water. Several areas of Ramgati and Kamalnagarupazilas of the district have been submerged.

The high tides have left Alauddin Master, resident of Telir char island, extremely distressed for his livelihood. “I have been staying on the island for the last 10 years. My house is at its highest point. Despite raising the house by 3 metres, the tide has entered the house,” he said. 

A senior resident of Martin village in Lakshmipur district said he has been fishing for over 45 years but has never seen high tides like the present ones. “I don’t know if we will be able to live on the banks of the river in the future,” he said. 

According to the 2011 census, about 50 million people live in the coastal region of Bangladesh. Sixteen out of the 19 districts are high risk. 

Residents of the entire coastal region are at grave risk due to cyclones, tidal waves and rising sea levels.

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