IN ASIA

Weekly Insights and Analysis

From Bangladesh: Recovery from the Floods

November 14, 2007

By Syed A. Al-Muti

Every year, a substantial portion of Bangladesh is submerged by monsoon floodwaters. Bangladeshis have adapted to this recurrent cycle of seasonal flooding with extraordinary resilience. But then there is extreme, severe flooding. This occurs every few years here, posing a great threat to public health and placing a tremendous strain on social service delivery.

This past July, 2007, severe flooding affected thousands of square kilometers of land in several parts of the country, damaging crops, homes, schools, hospitals, and other public facilities. The flooding devastated rural areas and forced tens of thousands of people from their homes, threatening the lives and livelihoods of farmers, laborers, cycle rickshaw drivers, small traders, and fishermen. In response to this emergency, The Asia Foundation partnered with small business associations in Rangpur and Jessore Districts to address one of the major long-term consequences of flooding”the supply of safe drinking water.

Emergency flood relief efforts often focus on urgent, immediate needs such as rescue missions and delivery of food, water, and medicine. While essential, these conventional measures leave communities and local government agencies to cope with the difficult task of long-term restoration of physical infrastructure with the minimal resources available to them. The long-term challenges include contamination of community water supplies and access to hand-drawn tube wells as a safer source of potable water. The demand for tube wells invariably exceeds available resources, leaving many villagers to travel long distances to access safe water.

Through a call to the local private sector to join relief efforts, program staff of the Foundation’s Local Economic Governance Program installed tube wells in flood affected areas in cooperation with local business association partners, or samities. The Foundation provided funding for the purchase of rugged hand pumps, while business samities worked with communities to select the prime location for the tube wells, and then supervised their installation. Cooperative tube well installation meets immediate and long-term needs, while instilling a sense of community responsibility and service in the small business sector.

Fifty-two tube wells were installed in flood affected communities in Rangpur and Jessore, which will provide more than 1,000 families with a long-term supply of safe drinking water. The activity complemented the Government of Bangladesh’s ongoing relief and rehabilitation efforts, and was hailed by local government authorities as a symbol of public-private partnership in community building. Business samities said they welcomed their role as an opportunity to strengthen their relationship with the community.

Syed Al-Muti is The Asia Foundation’s Director of Local Economic Governance Programs in Bangladesh.

Related locations: Bangladesh

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