Causes of Flooding Condition in Sylhet: 2022

Mrittika Das Durba

While many low-lying parts of Bangladesh are burning in severe heat, Sylhet is floating in the water. There is a dreadful flooding condition in Sylhet. Almost all the areas of Sylhet and Sunamganj are submerged. About 2 million people have been suffering from floods so far in the two most affected districts and schools and important infrastructures have been submerged into water, hampering the education of school-going children. About 50,000 families had been without power for days in the Sylhet city area. As per the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE), 370 tube wells and 3,659 toilets are affected. Health/Medical support, shelter, food, drinking water, saline, water purifying tablet, and cash support are observed as immediate needs of the affected people. So, there is a question arises why flood is occurring in Sylhet again and again.

Mostly two main reasons can be identified behind this flooding condition. One is upstream rainfall(natural) and the other is filling the bottom of the river(man-made); along with these two, illegal occupation of water bodies of the city is also a major factor for this flood condition.

It has been raining in the north-eastern part of Bangladesh for the last few days. The highest rainfall is in Cherrapunii in the Indian state of Meghalaya, upstream of Sylhet. This time a record amount of rain is falling in Cherrapunji and This water cannot hold the river and causes floods – these types of floods are called Flash Flood which are caused by excessive rainfall in a short period over a relatively short area. Mostly it occurs in the area where the upstream bowl geology is moderately steep and the time required for the water to spill out of the most remote point in a watershed to the watershed outlet is generally short. In a flash flood condition rising and falling of the water level has very little or no alarming. The most affected regions are in the Haor Basin of the northern belt of Bangladesh, which is comprised of Sylhet, Sunamganj, Moulvibazar, Habiganj, and Netrakona Districts, just as the southeast in Chittagong, Cox’sBazar and Bandarban Districts. Flash floods are most normal from April to July and from September to October.

Another manmade reason is the filling and illegal occupation of rivers and other water bodies which is very common in Sylhet city. Surma and Kushiyara are the two most important rivers of Sylhet. It enters Bangladesh from the Barak river of India through the Zakiganj border of Sylhet and flows through Sylhet, Sunamganj, Netrokona, and Kishoreganj, and joins Meghna with a length of about 249 km. but it is a matter of sorrow that the main river is waterless for most of the time of year. There are two forms of Surma; In the rainy season, it overflows on both sides and in summer the water dries up and turns into a dead river.

The bottom of the river is filled with silt. As a result, the river turns into sandy lands in the dry season. On the other hand, the river overflowed in low rainfall. In the rains, the river water overflows and submerges the crops of the Haor. The source of this river is also filled. There are 35 chars at 32 km from the source of the river. As it flows through the two countries, the source river excavation is also stuck because no decision has been taken by the joint river commission. The bottom of the Surma and Kushiyara rivers is full. Civic waste, especially plastics, is firmly entrenched at the bottom of the Surma river. Due to this, the river is not able to hold water. Along with these, most of the Dighis of the city have been filled in the last three decades. As per Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), 15/20 years ago there were more than 50 big Dighis in Sylhet city but now only 10/11 are fine. The rest is filled.

Therefore, it can be said that the problem has not been solved as all the recommendations made prepared by Sylhet city and other foreign experts have not been implemented. The waterlogging problem has worsened. Due to the filling of different canals in different places of the city the natural navigability of these has been lost. The necessary drainage system is broken consequently. As a result, when the river water swells during the monsoon season, rainwater enters these canals and the water cannot move quickly due to a lack of navigability. Due to this, various parts of the city are submerged during the monsoon season. Even some parts of the city’s main roads are submerged by 1 to 1.5 meters of water and traffic is disrupted.

The city’s drainage and flood control problems have been alarming for the past three decades and need to be figured out the problems. A sustainable water Management system has to be implemented immediately. Otherwise, in the upcoming years, due to the lack of a proper drainage system, the life of Sylhet city is likely to be paralyzed by the flooding condition.

Author is a Student of Environmental Science and

Engineering Department  at Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazral Islam University

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