Indian subcontinent and that sinking feeling: A quarter of Bangladesh under water

12th August 2020

12th August 2020

It’s a grim monsoon in Indian subcontinent. A quarter of Bangladesh is under water. India is reeling to the extent that prime minister Narendra Modi had to seek out six chief ministers to stop the floodgates. And in Pakistan, the news has floated in that 50 people have died in just three days of torrential rain.

Distressing news is pouring. The Bihar government has informed that no less than 75 lakh of its people have been badly affected so far. Over 12,400 are in relief camps, set up by National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).

Modi of course sought out chief ministers of Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Assam. All these states have been asked by the prime minister to use technology in being forewarned on unrelenting rains. Many rivers in these states are flowing about the danger mark. The destruction is at hand.

Not that this situation is going to ease up any time soon. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) predicts heavy rains in Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, East Rajasthan, Delhi, Chandigarh, Gujarat and Vidarbha till August 16.

Let’s review Bangladesh. Bay of Bengal has practically swallowed entire villages along the coast. The mighty Brahmaputra river is getting worse by the day. Brahmaputra stretched to 2,400 miles, beginning from Tibetan Himalayas and spilling into northeastern India before merging with the Ganges in Bangladesh and emptying into the Bay of Bengal.

The satellite data of Bangladesh’s research agencies show that about 24-37 percent of the landmass of the country is submerged. Nearly 4.7 million people have been rendered homeless. Floods have engulfed a million homes.

Not that floods are uncommon in Bangladesh. Every year people survive on their savings and emergency food. But this year is different. People have run out of food. No cause to look far for reason: It’s the season of Coronavirus pandemic.

The last five years alone have brought in four major floods. Worse floods loom. If the average global temperature was to rise by 2 degree Celsius, flooding alone could increase by 24 percent in Bangladesh. A 4 degree Celsius rise, would flood 60 percent of Bangladesh.

Farah Kabir, Director at ActionAid International Bangladesh, told New York Times: "People are losing whatever little they have." The failure of the rich world to deliver an aid package of $100 billion to poor countries to help them to cope with climate change as promised as a part of the Paris accord of 2015 is not helping the situation.

In Pakistan, every year, major cities struggle to cope with the annual monsoon. Sewers are blocked, dirts overflow in frontyards and crops and infrastructure are ruined.

This year northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 12 provinces in southern Sindh, 8 in Punjab and 10 in Gilgit-Baltistan have faced the havoc of flash floods.  Lahore and Karachi, the two prime cities of Pakistan, have also turned into virtual lakes.

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