The flood waters of Pachil village in Sirajganj’s Shahzadpur upazila have started to recede. But that does not matter to Ahed Ali. The furious Jamuna has devoured his home, even the land on which his humble abode stood.
For over a month, Ahed, along with his family of five, and other flood victims, have taken shelter on a nearby field. They all have to pay a small sum of rent to occupy that space as well.
“The water started gushing in by the first week of July. There was no scope to stay back. Now, everything has been washed away. There is no land to rebuild my home and no money to start afresh either,” he said.
Anji Khatun, of nearby Dadaspanchi village, returned from the shelter to see that her home has been damaged. She had no choice but to borrow Tk 20,000 at a high rate of interest from a local money lender to repair her home.
“My daughters and I took shelter in the flood protection embankment for three weeks. Nobody is coming forward to help us, not even the government.”
Anji was lucky that she found someone to borrow money from. But Maleka Begum of Potajia Nishipara village in the same upazila, not so much. No one is willing to lend money to her.
Tying up some bamboo sticks with rope, she has repaired her home. The wind or rain can blow away the repairs at any time, she said, as she continues to live perilously.
“My husband is a poor day labourer. He had no work in the last one month. We have no place to live, no food to eat even.”
All the victims said they lost everything in the last three weeks, but they did not get any help for rehabilitation.
Md Chand Ali of Potajia village said, “During the flood, we were given seven to eight kilograms of rice as relief material.” It was enough to last a week for a family of five. “We are in dire need of assistance to rebuild our homes.”
Over 3,079 families of 408 villages in five upazilas of Sirajganj were displaced by the recent flood. A total of 15,434 people have been hit hard, while 313,997 people were partially affected, according to Sirajganj Relief and Rehabilitation Office.
A total of 6,505 houses were entirely damaged, while 44,013 were partially damaged.
“We have reported these figures to the ministry of relief and rehabilitation. They have allotted 1,570 bundles of corrugated iron sheets to rehabilitate the flood victims. The allotment is likely to reach Sirajganj soon,” Sirajganj Deputy Commissioner (DC) Dr Faruk Ahmed told the Daily Star recently.
Not just home, roads, culverts, croplands, ponds and many educational institutions have been battered by the flood. Officials concerned at the district administration have pinned losses at Tk 200 crore this year. Total actual losses cannot be ascertained yet, as many areas are still under water.
“Although the water level was dropped below the danger level now, flooding has not left yet. There are many areas in Belkuchi, Kazipur, Chowhali and Shahzadpur that are still water logged,” said Md Rafikul Islam, Sirajganj divisional engineer of Water Development Board.
The flood water is likely to remain till the end of September, which will add to the misery of the people in these areas, he added.
A total of 21,000 hectares of croplands were inundated and crops on 14,000 hectares were completely damaged, said Md Habibul Haque, deputy director of Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) in Sirajganj. He assumes the damage to agriculture to be worth Tk 134 crore.
“The agriculture sector has suffered the most due to the flood. We have submitted the flood loss report to the ministry, seeking rehabilitation funds.”
“We are currently taking preparations for 30-acre seed beds and 56 floating seed beds in the district to assist the victim farmers after the water recedes,” he said.
Meanwhile, the district has lost eight primary schools to river erosion. There is no existence left of those institutions, said Md. Eusuf Reza, Sirajganj primary education officer. At the same time, 162 primary schools were partially damaged, he added.
“We could not calculate the total loss yet, but we are estimating it at around Tk 1.85 crore.”
All academic activities are stalled since July. “We hope to resume studies after we complete the repair works after Eid,” he added.
Sirajganj District Educational Officer Md Shafiulla said 65 high schools and colleges have also been damaged. He expects repair work to start soon.
Fish cultivation took a hit in Chalanbeel areas of Sirajganj. A total of 116.75 hectares of fishing areas were affected, washing away 110.73 tonnes of fish and 1.27 crore fish fry worth Tk 4.17 crore, said Md Shahed Ali, Sirajganj district fishery officer.
“We are expecting rehabilitation funds for the worst-hit fish farmers.”
The flood has destroyed 134 acres of hybrid grass fields. The loss can be estimated at Tk 75 lakh, said Akhteruzaman Vuia, district livestock officer.
The flood claimed the lives of 4 cows and 3,885 chicken. Although the flood did not hurt the animals directly, the cattle farmers face massive losses for fodder crisis.
Besides, a total of 55.34 kilometres of roads were totally damaged, while 180 km partially, said Md Mizanur Rahman, executive engineer of Sirajganj LGED. Twenty-nine culverts were also damaged.
Several roads are still inundated, so the actual loss is still unknown, he said.
Sirajganj is one of the biggest handloom and power loom producing areas in the country.
Samen Ali of Saydabad Modhhyapara in Sirajganj Sadar upazila said, “I set up a handloom factory by borrowing money from a local NGO a couple of years ago. But the recent flood destroyed my factory, taking away the lone source of income for my family.”
“I don’t know how I will repay the loan instalments now.”
Like him, most weavers in five upazilas are facing a crisis. Total damage to the sector is yet to be determined.
As the flood water recedes, Jamuna river is devouring houses and crop lands at several points of Sirajganj Sadar, Chowhali, Shahzadpur, Kazipur and Belkuchi upazila, said Sirajganj divisional WDB engineer Rafikul Islam. This is casual river erosion, he added.
“According to the characteristics of Jamuna, the river banks erode both then the water level rises and drops. We have nothing to do at this moment. At the end of the flood, we can take steps to save damage for the next time.”
Sirajganj district administration has complied a flood loss report from different departments. But the fund allotment for rehabilitation is yet to be allotted.
“We will start rehabilitation work after getting the funds,” DC Dr Faruk said.