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Two Thousand People Stuck on an Embankment in Bangladesh to Escape Worst Floods in a Decade

DHAKA, 19th August 2007: More than 600 families displaced by both flooding and land erosion have taken temporary refuge on a plot of land provided for the government, 50 kilometers southwest of the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka.

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HFHI’s Kyle Scott and Chris Amy in Mahmudpur speak with one of the flood-affected villagers.

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Temporary housing in Mahmudpur

Situated on a elevated embankment of packed sand, in a temporary shelter center located in Mahmudpur, Dohar, these families were forced to higher ground two weeks ago as flood waters rose.

Scores of young children play on the embankment. But for the adults it is a different story. Most relied on day wages from working on farms, but since the flooding the majority have been out of work.

Habitat for Humanity International region program manager Kyle Scott said: “(The families) were told they could stay here four months then would need to leave. The former land they lived on for several years adjacent to the new location is susceptible to annual flooding and erosion.”

An assessment team from habitat for Humanity International and Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh visited the community recently as part of its investigations into the shape and scale of a Habitat post-disaster rebuilding program.

The temporary location in Mahmudpur covers less than eight acres. There are just three tube wells and 11 latrines for nearly 2,000 people.

Scott added: “We will contact government land authorities and determine if there is the possibility of working out a solution to build a more permanent housing community here and linking up with other non-governmental organizations which work in water and sanitation.”

The team was informed that health problems associated with the floods were not big issues as there are clinics and pharmacies nearby. However, the bridge to the local school was washed out during the flooding so the children have been unable to attend school for several weeks.

Habitat for Humanity’s Asia-Pacific appropriate technology manager Fernando Morales Torres added: “If they could obtain permission from the government to stay longer here Habitat could build transitional houses here that could be dismantled later on if they needed to relocate.”

“One way would be to build a stilted house that would withstand future flooding. A retaining wall built around the embankment could help with solving the erosion problem and holding back flood waters.

“Road access into the community is good and the ability to set up a Habitat Resource Center block-making unit is possible with the availability of mud for adobe bricks.”

The current situation with continued daily rains has seen water levels rise to danger levels in all three major rivers in Bangladesh, the Padma in the west, the Meghna in the northeast, and the Jamuna, some 72 kilometers west of the capital, according to the government’s Flood Forecasting and Warning Center. Water levels could go over the mark at any time.

HFH Bangladesh has built and rehabilitated approximately 1,000 homes. It operates mainly through Habitat Resource Centers and related satellite centers in local communities. Many projects are under taken in partnership with other non-governmental organizations.