Floods in Bangladesh: Experts say climate crisis worsens | Flood news

Bangladesh’s worst floods in more than a century have killed dozens and displaced nearly 4 million people, with authorities warning that water levels will remain dangerously high in the north this week.

Experts say it is catastrophic caused by rain floodswhich flooded much of the country the northern and northeastern regions are the result of climate change.

Bangladesh, a densely populated nation in the delta, is also one of the most vulnerable to climate change in the world, where the poor are disproportionately affected, as frequent floods threaten livelihoods, agriculture, infrastructure and clean water supply.

A 2015 study by the World Bank Institute says that about 3.5 million of Bangladesh’s 160 million people are at risk of flooding a river each year.

Interactive_Floods in Bangladesh_22_June 2022

Saiful Islam, director of the Institute of Water and Flood Management (IWFM) at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), analyzed 35 years of flood data and found that rains are becoming more unpredictable and many rivers are rising above dangerous levels more often than before.

“The last seven years alone have led to five major floods, undermining people’s ability to adapt, especially in the country’s northern and northeastern regions,” Islam told Al Jazeera.

Citing one of his scientific papers, he said that even if global average temperatures rise moderately – by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial averages – floods are expected in the Brahmaputra River basin in northeastern India. and Bangladesh to increase by 24 percent.

With a 4 degree Celsius (7.2 F) increase, floods are expected to increase by more than 60 percent, according to a study by Islam.

Floods in Bangladesh
People pass through water while seeking shelter in Sylhet, Bangladesh [File: Abdul Goni/Reuters]

Clogged system

Several rivers, including the Brahmaputra, one of the largest in Asia, flow downstream from northeastern India through the low-lying wetlands of Bangladesh as they flow into the Bay of Bengal.

This year, however, excess rainwater from the Indian states of Assam and Megalaya, which flows into the Megna and Jamuna rivers in Bangladesh, cannot be drained, as the wetlands have already been saturated by earlier pre-monsoon floods last month.

“The clogging of riverbeds caused by deforestation and solid waste disposal has already reduced the aquifer capacity of rivers in Bangladesh,” Ashik Iqbal, an IWFM researcher, told Al Jazeera.

In addition, excessive extraction of sand and stone in upper India has loosened the soil, which eventually ends up at the bottom of the river and reduces navigability. As a result, all systems become clogged. And this clogged system has lost its ability to drain water from two rapid successive floods in a short time, “he said.

Unplanned construction along the Northeast Wetland is another reason rivers clog arteries, Mominul Hak Sarkar, a senior adviser at the Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS), told Al Jazeera.

“Many pocket roads as well as culverts are being built in different places in the wetland. As a result, the water flow is obstructed and swells when it rains excessively, “said Sarkar.

Most of the towns and villages in northern Bangladesh do not have protective dams. So when water levels in wetlands or rivers begin to rise, it quickly enters residential areas and floods them, he said.

To deal with floods, conventional methods such as embankment on major rivers were proposed as part of the 1990 Flood Action Plan.

People are passing through flooded waters in Sylhet, Bangladesh
People are walking through a flooded street in Sylhet, Bangladesh [File: Abdul Goni/AP]

But some experts say structural flood control measures are ineffective.

Mohammad Halekuzzaman, a geoscientist at Lock Haven University in the United States, told Al Jazeera that it was “difficult and undesirable to limit flooding with fortified walls.”

“It may be necessary to control floods in selected places where there is a high concentration of population and resources, such as in large cities,” he said. “But in a wetland-dominated geography, that’s not necessary.”

Khalequzzaman said that enclosing low-lying areas with permanent embankments or polders is a popular intervention in countries like Bangladesh. “The polders separate the rivers from the floodplains, which in turn increases the flow in the river and causes erosion of the river bank,” he said.

He said that water resources in the great rivers of Bangladesh should be managed with the participation of all riparian countries in the basins of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Megna (GBM) – Bangladesh, India and Bhutan.

“The problem is that only 8 percent of GBM’s basins are in the geographical area of ​​Bangladesh. So, in fact, without an integrated water pact between all countries in the GBM basins, floods cannot be managed properly in Bangladesh, ”he said.

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