Selim Mia, a resident of Nishanbaria village of Noltona union in Barguna's Sadar upazila, recently leased a fish pond to start a fish farm. He took out Tk1 lakh in loans to construct the fish farm plus purchase fish fry and fish food.
He hoped he would earn more than Tk2 lakh by selling the fish in a few days. However, Selim Mia's dream was dashed by cyclone Amphan.
Selim Mia, along with his elderly parents, went to the shelter last Wednesday after great danger signal no. 10 was hoisted due to cyclone Amphan. After the cyclone, Selim Mia returned home with his parents, on Thursday morning, and found their house in a dilapidated condition.
The family of Selim Mia saw their hopes and dreams disappear as Cyclone Amphan had badly damaged their house and washed away their fish farm – their only means of earning livelihood.
With a tearful voice, Selim Mia said, "I built a fish farm after leasing a pond. I planned to renovate the old house after selling the fish, but Amphan dashed all my hopes. I can live anywhere, but where will I keep my elderly parents now?"
Locals said Selim Mia's father Hashem Mia had been in a good financial condition. However, he lost everything to natural disasters, including cyclones – coupled with continuous erosion of the Bishkhali River.
"I had many cows and buffaloes and 12 acres of land. I also made the house strong to protect it from storms. However, cyclones, one after another, and river erosion have washed away all my belongings into the riverbed," said old Hashem Mia.
Renu Begum, Selim Mia's elderly mother, said, "The wooden house is very old. The tin and wood house used to shake when the wind blew. Cyclone Ampan destroyed it. "
"Selim earns a small amount of money by working with others. Will he be able to build another house? Where will we stay now?" she asked.
The two-kilometer flood control embankment, on the banks of the Biskhali River in Noltona union, has long been disappearing into the riverbed. However, the Water Development Board last year constructed an embankment stretching one kilometer in an area of high risk. More than five hundred families used to live in that area.
Noltona Union Parishad member Amir Hossain said the houses of every family in the second block of Noltona union have been destroyed repeatedly. The houses of the rest of the families are under severe threat.
Additionally, the Azgarkathi, Naltona, Amtala, and Nishanbaria areas in Barguna Sadar upazila have faced erosion by the Bishkhali River for almost two decades.
"Thousands of families have already lost their houses. Vast acres of cropland have disappeared into the river. Additionally, the people here become destitute after being hit by storms and tidal surges," he added.
"As soon as the Meteorological Department issued a flood alert, the people here packed their bags and ran away. There is no shelter within two to three kilometres – not even a pucca house. It is necessary to build a cyclone shelter in this area," he continued.
Abdus Sattar, a local resident, said, "Due to the distance of the cyclone shelter, people were washed away on their path to taking shelter during the cyclone Sidr. A mass grave was made for the residents in the area."
He said Barguna Press Club and the district administration offers special prayers at the mass grave on a specific day every year. However, no cyclone shelter was built in the area to protect the people.
Noltona Union Parishad Chairman Shah Newaz Selim said, "I visited the area after the cyclone. I also went to Selim Mia's house. Cyclone Ampan totally destroyed their house."
He said, "It has become very important to prevent erosion with blocks in the river in erosion-prone areas. Moreover, it is very important to build multiple cyclone shelters in this area. I will talk to senior officials about this."
Deputy Commissioner of Barguna Mostain Billah said, "We have already stood beside those affected by the cyclone Ampan in Barguna."
"We are providing food aid, including tin and cash, to each affected family. We will stand by every affected family in the district. Not a single family will be left out of aid efforts."