This year’s floods have turned out worse than the forecasts predicted. Even in mid-July, disaster management experts were talking in terms of an even chance for a “once-in-10-years” disaster. The last week of July, if not more, was foreseen as a period of respite. Now we are on the doorstep of August, the water is still here, everywhere right down to the capital, and even any talk of respite has been pushed back to mid-August. And we are hesitant to count on that even, anymore.
What we’ve ended up with is the worst flood in more than 20 years. You have to go back to the historic flood of 1998 to find one that lasted longer. Duration is the most reliable indicator of a flood’s severity. Casualties are always very difficult to attribute in any flood. By July 26, even the official list contained 119 names.
According to the National Disaster Response Coordination Center (NDRCC), as of July 28th, 4.7 million people are affected and close to a million homes have been inundated. More than 150,000 hectares of paddy fields were damaged, along with thousands of latrines and tube wells. The Needs Assessment Working Group, which coordinates the response between UN bodies, reported that 24 percent of the country is under water, and approximately 56,000 people have been displaced in 1,086 flood shelters.
Several districts have been geographically isolated due to the roads leading up to them having eroded away into nothingness at ground-level. giving away. Over 1,900 schools are damaged (the sight of a brand new, 3-storey school building washing away like a paper model providing one of the sights by which to remember this year’s flood), leaving 807,467 children without access to education.
The New York Times covered it, although somewhat disappointingly, in what read like a bit of a throwback to the era of the ‘white man’s burden’, only it wasn’t authored by one. The number of times the words ‘rich countries’ and ‘poor countries’ appear is almost a visual sight to behold. It draws heavily on the climate change angle, to which the authors’ instincts clearly tack, to the detriment of other solutions that could be far more practical, and really provide almost immediate relief, such as the erecting of effective flood protection dams and embankments. The agency of the government that is tasked with this responsibility, the Water Development Board, is obsolete for this task at least, which actually merits a specialised agency of its own.
The WDB has never managed to do it justice - particularly the maintenance component that is as important as building it in the first place, if not more.