Nearly 10 months after super cyclone Amphan hit the country, around 30,000 people of Assasuni upazila in Satkhira are still living with river tides as many parts of damaged river embankments have not been repaired yet.
Losing their houses to the River Kopotakkho, many of these people have been living in makeshift huts on the embankments in Sreeula and Protapnagar unions of the upazila. They do not know when they will get their own home again.
On 20 May 2020, cyclone Amphan hit the coastal district, Satkhira, with its destructive strength. The embankment of the river was washed away by the disaster, leaving many locals homeless and innumerable ones unemployed.
Some of the affected families migrated to other parts of the country. Some even went to neighbouring India in search of a livelihood.
Some 4,69,890 families live in Satkhira district, according to a 2010 report of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. Some 48.30% of the people in the district live below the poverty line, while 29.08% people are extremely poor, said the report.
Currently, Satkhira's population stands at around 22 lakh.
Out of 64 districts of the country, Satkhira has the highest percentage of poor people.
Every year, the people of this coastal district have to fight for their survival due to natural disasters such as cyclone, tsunami, flood, river erosion etc. But the government has no additional allocation for the district to deal with the natural disasters.
The government has made special allocations to save the people in famine-affected areas. But the coastal areas also need special attention from the government to survive the yearly natural disasters they have to face, according to concerned people.
Satkhira is identified as a disaster-prone district. The number of poverty-stricken people is increasing in the district due to a lack of government support.
On a recent visit to Assasuni upazila, The Business Standard found that the coastal area was still in a devastated state. Agricultural land and fish farms have merged with the river water.
Shahina Khatun, wife of Gaffar Gazi of Sripur village under the upazila, said her husband worked for a week to repair the damaged embankment.
"So far, we have received no government assistance from Pratapnagar Union Parishad except 24 kilograms of rice – 8kg and 16kg through two separate slips – in return for my husband's work."
"There is no work for us in our locality. My husband left the area four months ago in search of work, he does not provide for us anymore. I have heard he has got married again. I along with my two sons and one daughter am spending days with inefficient food," she added.
School teacher Oliur Rahman of Kurikaunia village in Protapnagar union, said, "1,150 families live in Sripur-Kurikaunia ward. After Amphan, 175 families have left the area. Many of them have left their wives and children and gone to other districts and got remarried. These men are not taking their first family's responsibility. The children are missing out on their education."
He further said, "If we want to go from one place to another inside the village, we have to cross several temporary culverts made of bamboo. There is no road or whatsoever. River tides still flow over the village."
Jahangir Hossain of Chakla village said, "My home has been washed away in the river. I have nothing left. My family along with another 25 families is been living on the embankment of the river Kopotakkho since Amphan took away everything from us."
"The government only gave us 20kg rice per family and that was after five days of repairing work. Many people have lost everything, even concrete buildings, stored paddy etc," he said.
Professor Anisur Rahim, president of Satkhira District Citizens Committee, said, "People of coastal areas of Satkhira are deprived of all kinds of civic amenities including education, health, medical treatment and accommodation.
"The district has not seen much development. Satkhira district in the south-western region is falling behind day by day due to a lack of communication and infrastructural development. The government must take urgent steps to rehabilitate the people affected by the disaster. Additional allocations are needed to revitalise economic activities."
"If the government does not take urgent action, the coastal areas of Satkhira will become uninhabitable," he added.
SM Mostafa Kamal, deputy commissioner of Satkhira, said, "The government has taken steps to build sustainable dams in the coastal areas. The project is being executed by the Army and the Water Development Board. Together they are working to repair embankments in the coastal region."
"Besides, the coastal areas are devastated by natural calamities every year. The government is undertaking steps to protect the people of these villages," he added.