Bangladesh only exists because of the flooding that occurs each year and the rivers that flow through. Bangladesh is 80% delta which is low lying land and could be washed away at anytime. Even an extra meter of water can have disastrous affects. This also means that 80% of the land is a flood plain.
It is expected the land will flood with 30% of the land being flooded which is an area the size of Wales. But is only considered a ‘big’ flood and abnormal if more than 30% of the land is flooded.
(Source 1) Flooding in the 1988 Bangladesh flood.
Bangladesh is one of the most crowded countries in the world. Compared to the U.K. there are twice as many people in almost half as much space. The population in Bangladesh is 124,774,000 and in England 58,649,000. But Bangladesh is also a poor country 77% of the population live in the rural countryside to farm the land, in the united kingdom only 11% live in the countryside because we are a developed MEDC. Many people in Bangladesh have to live here because farming is the only way that they can get enough money and food to survive. This causes a major problem when there is a flood, and many more lives are lost.
Bangladesh is bordered by Nepal and India with the Bay of Bengal at the South of the country. Three large rivers run through the country: Ganges, Jamuna, and Kalni.
(Source 2) Bangladesh show on a map.
What causes the floods?
Bangladesh suffers from both physical factors and natural factors. Monsoon rains is one of the physical factors. In June 321mm of rain fell, July 437mm, and August 305mm of rain in Dhaka. This adds up to 1063mm in three months. In London we only get 650mm-700mm in an average year. All of the rain that falls in India and Nepal also flushes through Bangladesh which is a drainage basin. There is also the added water from the snow melting. The rivers are already full of rainwater from it’s ‘drainage basin’ all the extra rain then has no where to go so the rivers burst and flood the land.
Deforestation is happening in Nepal, this is also a physical factor. Having less trees means that the rain fall pressure lifts the soil, the soil is then washed down river. The trees were very useful at slowing down the rainfall in their leaves. The roots of the tree keep the soil together and absorb some of the water. With more silt and mud in the river channel this means it can hold less water consequently the river overflows easier.
The government of Nepal owns the forest area and has laws to stop the people chopping down the trees but Nepal is a poor country so the people have no choice, they need to cut the trees down to survive. The trees are used to burn for heat, to sell for money, and the land that is left is used for farming. If a ranger does come to arrest the people that are chopping the trees down they have a high chance of being held at gun point.
After the monsoon Nepal’s roads are six meters under water. The people use boats as cars on canals instead of the normal road use.
(Source 4) people in Nepal after the monsoon rains.
There is not just the problem of flooding there is also the problem of the rising sea levels possibly due to global warming. Cyclones when they occur can force the water back up the rivers. This is in extreme weather conditions. In 1991 139,000 died when a cyclone struck.
(Source 3) Aftermath of the 1991 cyclone.
What are the effects?
The building of embankments has changed the river flow causing more floods. These floods are caused because the force of the water pulls the silt that the embankments have been made with back into the bottom of the river channel causing the channel to block up and therefore hold less water. Basically this means the water has to go somewhere so will build up at the end of the channel where the embankments end and flood.
The disastrous flood that hit in August 1988 covered 80 per cent of the land affecting two thirds of the population. It is the worst flood in the history the of Bangladesh floods. 7179 thousand houses were damaged and 2922 thousand tonnes of rice were lost. Having a flood this bad meant that electricity supplies were cut off. Whenever this happens it stops any communication links. There was no clean, safe drinking water because the wells had flooded. The official death toll was 2379, but because the country is poor and the flood was terrible many people were unaccounted for. Many people died from water born diseases such as cholera and dysentery. This is not new, these diseases are faced every year. There is even a fear of deaths from snake bites. The snakes take refuge on the top of buildings with the people as they are looking for dry land too.
After abnormal floods there is the problem of the shortage of food, clean safe drinking water, and medicine. The lay of the land is affected every year due to the floods. There could be an island in one place then after the next flood it has just disappeared leaving many homeless with no processions, and no crop. Many of the roads get flooded, so do the airports and train stations. This makes it hard for emergency supplies to get through, and it is difficult to find places to drop any emergency supplies as well.
There are also the good effects of flooding. The layers of silt are very fertile; this enables more crops to be grown. Some years up to three crops of rice can be grown. The water brings fish, which means the lakes and ponds refill. There’s not just fish it brings frogs which can be caught and eaten. Wells and groundwater supplies are also refilled.
What could be done to help?
Building embankments but this is only a short term solution to the problem. It can help the area that the embankments are built upon. So this is a good idea for the area around Dhaka. But the embankments would be disastrous for the more rural areas, causing the flooding to be worse. The embankments would also have to be very high in order to stop the water. Having embankments could cause the water to hang around longer making it stagnant and increasing the spread of disease from mosquitoes. Many animals and people will die in the water or excrete causing the water to be very unhygienic.
(Source 5) stagnant water and collapsed embankments in Dhaka.
Help to provide emergency medical stores which would contain essential drugs, dressings, and water purification tablets. A few of the local people would have the basic training in health care. This would reduce disease spread and provide immediate medical help. A major advantage of this would be that it is one of the cheapest ideas.
Another option would be houses on stilts. These buildings would be a safe place for the villagers to go. The building of the structures is relatively cheap. The main advantage is that it will directly help the poor rather than the rich which always seems to happen. The disadvantage of this would be that if the flood water has a strong currant it could sweep the shelter away.
(Source 6) Building on stilts that also protect people from tropical cyclones.
Clean water is a real problem. The dirty water carries disease which causes many deaths. A solution to this could be wells with much higher sides or even wells on stilts which lift them up a safe distance from the water.
There could be storage sheds built that are flood proof. This would ensure grain stores to be preserved allowing the villages to have access to food supplies through the flood. This is more expensive.
The final option is for Bangladesh to be linked up to an emergency flood warning system. Trained operators would be provided. This would enable villagers to carry out an evacuation. The major disadvantage of this is that people have all their crops and their homes on the land that is going to be flooded so they are reluctant to leave. Bangladesh is 30% flooded on a normal year and more when there is an abnormal flood. There are a lot of inhabitants so there is no where for them to go even if there was a warning of a flood.
The answer to the problem is not to stop the floods because that is the reason why Bangladesh exists. We want to prevent the loss of human life and damage to processions property and crops. Shamsul Huda works for the flood protection for Bangladesh. He says “we know that the country cannot stop flooding our aim is to control the floods.” The country learns to live with the floods to them it is just a nuisance but to us it would be a catastrophe. If the country was above the Brent line making it a MEDC then it would be able to deal with the flooding more efficiently.