Surging Sorrow | Photowalk by Din M Shibly

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The devastation left by Cyclone Yaas in Bangladesh’s coastal districts have marooned thousands and inundated 27 upazilas

The UN General Assembly marked 5 June as World Environment Day (WED) in 1972. The day is the UN’s main tool for exercising and encouraging awareness and proactivity for the protection of the environment. Each World Environment Day sets a theme; this year it is ‘Ecosystem Restoration’, and will witness the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – which can stretch into many directions such as growing trees, greening cities, cleaning up rivers and coasts, etc. As we move to commemorate World Environment Day 2021, we feel that it is important to highlight the effects of climate change in order to acknowledge the urgent need to restore and protect our ecosystem. This photo essay illustrates the damage and destruction left in the wake of cyclones and extreme weather conditions across Bangladesh over the years. As if to serve as a reminder, recently the Cyclone Yaas ravaged the coastal districts of the country and displaced scores of people living in the area. The ‘very severe cyclonic storm’ packed sustained winds of 130-140 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 155 kph when it made landfall.

Three to six feet storm surges caused by the cyclone pummeled and battered 27 upazilas across nine coastal districts of Bangladesh on 26 May 2021. Districts like Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat, Pirojpur, Barguna, Patuakhali, Bhola, Noakhali and Laxmipur have been left ravaged by high tides caused by the cyclone marooning residents of 200 villages as the surging storm flooded their homes, shops and farms. The affected upazilas include Shyamnagar, Asashuni, Koyra, Dakop, Paikgachha, Sharankhola, Mongla, Morelganj, Mathbaria, Barguna Sadar, Patharghata, Amtali, Patuakhali Sadar, Galachipa, Rangabali, Dashmina, Mirzaganj, Kolapara, Charfashion, Monpura, Tajumuddin, Dawlatkhan, Borhanuddin, Bhola Sadar, Hatia, Ramgati and Kamalnagar.

Localities in Patuakhali, Barguna, Satkhira and Pirojpur were inundated as embankments broke off and washed away. Around 250 houses were damaged and 900 cattle were washed away in the aftermath of Yaas in Bhola. At least 5,000 families in Bagerhat have become stranded in submerged villages as the local rivers swelled up, and some 4,470 fish enclosures and over 400 ponds in Bagerhat have been inundated by tidal surges triggered by Cyclone Yaas. The district witnessed the devastation of 21 villages which affected 2,700 people. In Mongla, an embankment was damaged in three places stranding 500 families in Kainmari, Sundartala, Kaltala, Jaymoni and South Kaimari villages of the upazila. Low-lying areas in Koyra, Dacope and Paikgachha upazilas of Khulna were also inundated by tidal surge triggered by Yaas.

With losses verging on Tk35 crore, farmland, fish and cattle have been swept away by tidal surges. Fish worth Tk15 crore has been lost in the aftermath of the cyclone. To fight against this natural disaster, Bangladesh Navy started emergency relief operations in coastal areas of Barishal, Khulna, Bagerhat, Patuakhali and Pirojpur districts. The relief distribution by the Navy in the coastal region will continue amid this natural disaster. The time for action is now, and as World Environment Day 2021 rolls around, we must devise a national strategy to better protect and strengthen our coastal regions as rapid climate change prepares the world for more unpredictable extreme weathers.

In his quest to highlight the impact of unpredictable and extreme weather conditions on land, people and livelihood, Din M. Shibly has traversed the entirety of Bangladesh for 17 years. These photographs taken by him are a small glimpse into the devastation faced by the country’s disaster prone regions.

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