Practical help for flood-hit Bangladesh
Press release, 28 June 2012
As the UK braces itself for floods, international development charity, Practical Action, has been saving hundreds of lives in the rain soaked villages of Bangladesh.
Over the past five days, landslides and flooding caused by torrential downpours have killed around 100 people and left 250,000 stranded in the low-lying, densely populated country, with more rain expected.
Yet this figure could have been worse without a Practical Action project, which has helped four communities flood-proof their homes and water supplies.
Previously, houses in Bangladesh have been made from flimsy wood, which sits on traditional earth floors, and topped with corrugated iron. As a result, thousands of families are forced to watch their homes wash away when the rains arrive in earnest.
However, Practical Action has worked with partner organisations and the families themselves to provide a solution to a flooding problem, which is becoming more regular and less predictable as a result of climate change.
With training and materials supplied by Practical Action, landless people have been able to build their own flood-proof houses. Homes in four villages along the Jamuna River have been replaced by ‘cluster villages’ in which the houses are raised above the floods by building them on a 6ft plinth of sandy soil, brick and concrete, strong and high enough to last through repeated floods.
Now, the charity is planning a project working with 2,000 of the poorest families in 20 villages of the Sirajgoni district, enabling them to cope with life-threatening hazards, such as river flooding, land erosion and flash floods through providing materials and the financial structure to build their own flood-proof homes.
Hosneara, 28, lives with her husband Zakir Hossain, a street vendor, and their three children. She said: “During the floods our home would be completely under water and we had to leave our home and take shelter on the embankment where we had to stay until the water receded. Each time we returned, our hut would be a wreck. Repairing or rebuilding it was difficult with our tiny income. We have had to move four times since we were married.”
In 2010, the family was selected for a home in one of the cluster villages. The room is equipped with solar lights and there are hygienic toilets and a safe drinking water source. Each house also has some land for vegetable planting.
“We were being forced to leaving our relative’s house and were terrified that once more we would have to live on the embankment which is so overcrowded with other poor people like us. The new house has come just in time. We’re so lucky to have a permanent house and a proper home – without Practical Action we would not have been able to do it in our lifetime. Now we feel safe and we are happy.”
Now the family is stable, Zakir’s income is steady and increasing which now averaging Tk. 3,000 a month (£24). Their elder son is able to go to school. The family do not have to worry about monsoons.
However, that is not all. More people are killed by drinking the stagnant, polluted flood water, which contaminates village wells. With people forced to drink the dirty flood water, it can be no surprise that 110,000 Bangladeshi people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases.
Walls are made of brick up to window level, increasing their resilience. Around the house, water-hungry plants like bamboo and banana soak up flood water left over. These, along with food and medicinal plants such as guava, coconut, mango and palm, help to bind the soil.
Similar techniques are used to raise village wells above the highest historic level of flooding in an area – simple, but no one had thought of doing it before Practical Action did. 100 wells have been elevated and 60 new ones have been built, saving an estimated 30,000 people from waterborne diseases.
For more information, pictures, case studies or interviews, go to www.practicalaction.org/flood-resistant-housing-drr, or contact Practical Action media officer, Andrew Heath on 01926 634552.