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Road to resilience: A success to be replicated

November 22nd, 2016 by Posted in Uncategorized

Prepared by Ashish Barua, Coordinator – Resilient WASH

 

‘We have got habituated to it. It will be coming, staying and going back again. But no worries, we are ready, we will be fighting till death,’ said Mosammat Hamida Begum from Baishpara referring to the flood recurring almost each and every year during monsoon in Bangladesh.

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Photo credit: Apurbo Saha, GUK

On July 30, 2016, Hamida Begum, together with all her family members and neighbours, were staying at a flood shelter, Khonjonmara Primary school in Bondober Union at Rowmari upazilla. This northern char area under Kurigram district lies almost on the lap of the river Brahmaputra, which brings the curse of frequent flood and river erosion to the vulnerable communities living on both of its banks. Not only do the households get washed away but the fields and other infrastructures also get destroyed leaving the people victims of water borne diseases.

‘We don’t know the reason behind this frequent flooding but, we have observed the difference between one flood and the next. May be, this is the impact of climate change. You see, this year the level of flood is much higher than we have ever experienced before,’ shared Hamida Begum.

Usually, the community here would refer to the flood level of 2008 as the highest which was crossed this year. Due to this higher level of flood sufferings of people especially of women, children and excluded community this year were much more than it was anticipated. In many cases, disaster preparedness activities also failed as high raised plinth, clusters, households and other infrastructures were inundated. Even the ground floor of Khonjonmara Primary School, the shelter, accommodating around 50 surrounding community people, went under the flood water. People got access to the shelter with boat or Bhela (makeshift boat).

‘Union Parishad (Local Government Institute) provided us rice and dry food, while most of us had some emergency pack with us. The key problems here were lack of safe water and sanitation. The toilets in the shelter were quite inadequate. There was only one toilet on the first floor. But, we were lucky to have a high raised tubewell for safe water close to the shelter,’ said Hamida indicating a nearby tubewell, making the visitors surprised.

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Photo credit: Apurbo Saha, GUK

‘Yes, it is different this year that we are getting safe water even in higher level flood. During the construction of the high raised tubewell, we were a little worried whether this high raised tubewell will work during flood. But as soon as the tubewell was set on the higher platform, we found it working,’ she continued.

Travel by a boat to the tubewell helped all to get there. This double platform tubewell was constructed by Oxfam under the Resilient WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) program last year. It has two platforms – one is at normal height like other conventional (already under water now), another is at a higher level, constructed considering the highest flood level. The tubewell, during normal period, is set on lower platform and people collect water smoothly. The trained caretaker from the community has set the tubewell on the higher one, as soon as the lower one is flooded.

But, why is this type of tubewell still not available in disaster prone areas? ‘We have started piloting this tubewell since last year and we found this quite successful during this year’s flood. We will try to mobilize resources from other donors also. And, as it is working as demonstration, other NGOs and government can also take initiatives for replication and mainstreaming. Only the challenge with community is that the cost is a bit higher,’ said Md. Monir, Project Coordinator of Gono Unnayan Kendra (GUK).

‘The tubewell has been a blessing for us all. If it were not functioning this way during this flood, you would see quite a number of people suffering from diarrhoea and other water borne diseases rather than meet these smiling faces here in the shelter. I think government can install more, as it will save the cost of emergency relief,’ said Hamida.

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