Despite 14 years having passed after super cyclone storm Sidr hit the Bangladesh coast, the Water Development Board (WDB) has not yet built a strong coastal protection embankment in Patuakhali district.
Lacking a strong embankment, several cyclonic storms have repeatedly flooded 3,000 acres of land in old Mohipur, Yusufpur, Nizampur, Komorpur and Sudirpur villages in Kalapara upazila, washing away fish enclosures and crops.
Worry and panic prevail on the coast. People are terrified of being hit by tidal waves at any time with no strong embankment in sight.
On 15 November 2007, Sidr hit coastal areas of the country, including Kuakata and adjacent localities, claiming many lives and destroying the livelihood of coastal people. Since then, uncertainty has gripped coastal people with terrifying memories of being forced to live under the open sky, without home or livelihood.
Farmers have been deprived of their desired cultivation of crops for 14 years as water now enters the localities during very high new moon-full moon tides, coupled with heavy rains that damage their produce.
Moreover, farmers face problems growing Aman rice since salt waters have repeatedly damaged the fertility of their croplands.
Cyclone Sidr damaged different parts of the 47/1 polder of the flood control embankment in Nizampur village of Mohipur union in the upazila. Then came a barrage of cyclonic storms –Nargis in 2008, Ayla in 2009, cyclonic storm Mahasen in 2013, Komen in 2015, Cyclone Roanu in 2016, Mora in 2017, and cyclones Fani and Bulbul in May and November of 2019 – that repeatedly damaged the embankment.
Last, cyclone Amphan badly damaged the flood control dyke at Nizampur village.
Water entered the locality during a very high tide in the Andharmanik river estuary, through the damaged parts of the embankment, despite the WDB having rebuilt it three times with multiple renovations.
Then the WDB built a ring embankment to prevent river erosion in financial year 2017-18, but the embankment was severely damaged again by cyclone Amphan.
Lecturer Shah Alam of Nizampur village, says people in five villages have not been able to cultivate any land for 10 years since Sidr. "The WDB built a ring embankment to alleviate their suffering, but that too disappeared, hit by cyclones one after another."
"We are always scared as no strong embankment has been built here to save us from storms," said Zaheer Nazir, another resident of Nizampur.
Chairman of Mahipur Union Parishad, Haji Fazlu Gazi, said most people there are fishermen and some make a living, farming. As the Nizampur and Sudhirpur villages of the union are close to the estuary, villagers have to survive battling the high tide at every new moon-full moon cycle. Here too, there was an 850-metre ring embankment but cyclone Amphan damaged it badly.
WDB Kalapara Zone Executive Engineer, Mohammad Arif Hossain, said work on the 48 and 47/2 polders of the ring embankment under the Coastal Embankment Improvement Project (CEIP) is currently going on.
"Many areas will be protected if work on about a 38 km stretch in the 48th polder, and 17 kms in the 47/2nd polder, is completed. Sometimes we repair the most damaged areas of the ring embankment," he added.
Clearly, climate change is taking its toll and will continue to do so unless better knowledge and technologies from Holland and around the world are applied here post haste. And even then, the forces of Mother Nature, disturbed may be too powerful to withstand for long.