Starting in March 27, the northeast parts of the country experienced severe flash floods that caused devastation to standing crops, infrastructure damage and human sufferings.
Experts working on development in the Haor wetland areas in the northeast say battling flash floods using permanent structures are likely to be less fruitful than effective temporary measures along with a long term action plan.
A recent study by the Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology (Buet) shows that pre-monsoon rainfall and its intensity are like to increase in the near future.
On Thursday, the Planning Commission's General Economics Division (GED) released a workshop output report that emphasised on long term action plans to protect the Haor environment.
Prof AKM Saiful Islam, who is with Buet's Institute of Water and Flood Management (IWFM), said: “The early flash flood that happened this year is unprecedented and such floods can cause greater damage. It will not be very wise to try to prevent them using permanent structures.”
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Paddy fields in Moulvibazar are submerged after flash flood in early April DHAKA TRIBUNE
Although the role of climate change on flash floods is yet to be established, changes in weather phenomenon and increase in extreme weather events have already been observed all over the world that are connected to global warming.
The probability of the occurrence of flash flood before its natural time would likely be higher in the future due to climate change, the professor said.
Asked if there were any early warning systems in the country for such flash floods, he said there are a few existing warning systems but their usability is still questionable.
“We are working with Bangladesh Water Development Board and Bangladesh Meteorological Department to develop a flash flood forecasting and early warning system under a project called Flash Flood Early Warning System,” Prof Saiful said.
They are hoping to complete development of the tool before the flash flood season next year. This system would be able to forecast with a lead time of three days, he added.
Recommendations by experts for flash flood control
1. Construction of rubber dams depending on the topography and sediment load of the river in the area to save Boro crops
2. Dredging of rivers and canals before pre-monsoon to improve their water carrying capacity
3. Introducing crop insurance to reduce the flash flood related risks in Haor areas
4. Introducing short cycle varieties of rice there
5. Inclusion of economic importance of Haor areas in national curriculum
6. Building eco-tourism in the Haor areas
7. Engaging community-based organisations to push local economy around Haor
8.Leasing water bodies to social organisations instead of individuals by revising the water body regulations
9. Building better coordination among government agencies for safeguarding natural habitat
10.Survey on Haor areas to assess economic valuation of Haor resources
11. Initiating new programmes to diversify agricultural products
Planning Commission's UNDP-backed project titled Support to Sustainable and Inclusive Planning (SSIP) held the workshop on Thursday that recommended long term action plan along with better coordination among government agencies, engagement of private sector for development in Haor areas, and efforts to be taken to preserve and conserve Haor biodiversity and ecosystems better.
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Flash flood in Kishoreganj. Over 300,000 hectares of paddy crop have been destroyed in the northern districts DHAKA TRIBUNE
Some 52 local environment activists and national stakeholders took part in the workshop.
Speakers said the issue needed to be included in national curriculum, particularly for the students of that region so that the new generation would understand their agro-climatic, economic and environmental significance and work for the development of the area effectively.
Better coordination would help avoid duplication of efforts and waste of public resources.
They suggested a comprehensive survey on Haor areas to assess economic valuation of Haor resources and rolling out new programmes to diversify agricultural products and improve life and livelihood of the people there.
Fakrul Ahsan, Project Manager of SSIP, said ownership of local people is vital for maintaining biodiversity and ecological balance of Haor areas.
Professor Shamsul Alam, Member of GED, urged the authorities concerned to conduct benchmark surveys and research on different agro-climatic and social aspects of Haors.