Lack of cyclone shelters and slow repair work on the damaged embankment around the coastal district have made over a million people vulnerable to natural calamities.
A 483-km stretch of the embankment around Barguna damaged by cyclones Aila and Sidr in 2009 and 2007 respectively could not yet be repaired. Since then, only a 38-kilometre stretch of it has been reconstructed.
Quoting a report published by the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) recently, deputy director of Barguna cyclone preparation programme Hafiz Ahmed said there are only 193 shelters in the district which can accommodate 0.2 million people during tidal surge or cyclone, and there is no shelter for the remaining 1 million people or more.
Ahmed said the district needs at least 400 shelters to ensure the safety of the one million people.
Mohammad Ibrahim, a resident of Potkakhali rehabilitation project, told reporters, "Our households are flooded during monsoon as water pour into our neighbourhood through the breaches of the embankment. So, we have to take shelter at safer places -- sometimes in relatives' houses – during the rainy season."
Mosharraf Hossain Mallik, a resident of Kumirmara area of the district, suggested that the risks can be minimised if mosques could be built following the designs of cyclone shelters along with educational institutions.
He added that the safety of livestock should also be taken into account while constructing cyclone shelters as many people refuse to leave behind their livestock during any natural disaster.
The LGED report shows at least 10 million people are vulnerable to natural disasters in 15 coastal districts that houses around 35 million people.
"There are a total of 3,715 cyclone shelters in the districts which are too inadequate to accommodate the 35 million people. Of the 10 million vulnerable, 5 million can be accommodated in the shelters. Another 3,700 shelters are needed to accommodate the rest," he added.
About the repair work of the damaged 483 km embankment, Barguna Water Development Board executive engineer Zahiruddin said, "So far, Tk 90 million has been allocated, which was used to reconstruct 27 kilometres of the embankment. Besides, 1,448 metric tonnes of wheat has been distributed under food-for-work programme to repair nearly 10.5-kilometre stretch of the embankment."
Zahir said at least Tk 1.5 billion is needed to renovate the embankment. "We have sought further allocation in the current fiscal to repair 28 kilometres of the embankment and reconstruct another 28-kilometre stretch, but there has been no response."
He said there is no embankment at eight portions and 16 sluice gates are missing. "Water rolls down through these points destroying crops."
Barguna local government engineering official Golam Mostafa said they constructed 11 shelters in the area with assistance from German before cyclones Sidr and Aila. Another 67 shelters were built in the last two and half years while construction work is going on another 12. Besides, allocations have been sought for more than 100 shelters.
District primary education officer Nikhil Ranjan Halder said if a shelter was built at every primary and secondary school in the area then education programmes could be carried out properly people during disasters.