Uprooted by Cyclone Amphan, thousands of families in west coast of Bangladesh still displaced

About two months back, on May 20, Super Cyclone Amphan crossed West Bengal-Bangladesh coasts causing extensive damages. Two months later, poor in coastal Bangladesh continue to suffer the cyclone’s impacts. A Gaon Connection photo feature.

Rafiqul Islam Montu
| Updated: July 13th, 2020

Satkhira and Khulna districts, Bangladesh

It’s been almost two months since Cyclone Amphan hit West Bengal (India) and Bangladesh. The worst affected areas in Bangladesh are Shyamnagar and Asashuni upazilas of Satkhira district, and Koyra upazila of Khulna district. At least 20 embankments collapsed due to the impact of the cyclone leading to saltwater inundation. Shrimp farms were washed away, too.

The cyclone came and went, but coastal people are unable to go back to their ‘normal’ lives. Tidal water is still flowing through the broken embankments and entering their homes. Roads are submerged. The only reliable means of transport is by boat.

Several people have fled their villages. Ill-fated ones have nowhere to go, so they are living on the broken embankments. Areas where these embankments have been repaired, villagers have managed to return home. Many people are still living in relief shelters. And the monsoon is here.

Villagers lost their livelihood and have found no work, hence no income. Unemployment is rising. Cyclone affected families are struggling to get their daily food. There is an acute shortage of drinking water as well. The COVID19 pandemic has made things worse, as relief supplies are affected. The west coast of Bangladesh is facing multiple disasters. Rafiqul Islam Montu, a Dhaka-based journalist, recently travelled to the three upazilas – Shyamnagar, Asashuni and Koyra — affected by the Cyclone Amphan and captured the displaced lives of local villagers in this photo feature.

Living with water

Tidal water still comes into the house. The danger increases when the tide comes in the river. People leave the house. Come home again at low tide to cook and eat. Since the Cyclone Amphan on May 20, the lives of these people are dependent on the tides. The people of several villages adjoining the Sundarbans in the western coastal districts of Satkhira and Khulna in Bangladesh are living inhuman lives. Location: Hajatkhali in Koyra upazila of Khulna district.
Before Cyclone Amphan hit, the river was far away. But the embankment collapsed and saltwater inundated the land. Life has been ruined. Not only this house of Hakima Begum, all the houses in the village are in similar condition. New crises have been created in the lives of the poor. Lack of work and food is intensifying. There is no income. Location: Gabura in Shyamnagar upazila of Satkhira district.
The devastating signs of Cyclone Amphan are still visible. People are speechless and numb. Natural disasters have ravaged their lives. The house sinks in the tide; dries up for a while at low tide. The river Kapatakkha has come to the house. The lives of these villagers are now measured by the tide. Location: Lebubunia village in Shyamnagar upazila of Satkhira district.
Houses damaged by the Cyclone Amphan. Fish trader Nuruzzaman now lives like this with his family. At high tide, this shop-house gets flooded. The cooking is done on the raised loft. Women and children sleep in this inundated room at night. Nuruzzaman sleeps in the boat. Location: Madinabad village of Koyra upazila of Khulna district.

Living in the boat and launch terminal

Meet 45-year-old Sufia Khatun. Her husband’s name is Abul Kalam Dhali. The family now lives in the restroom of the launch ghat. Her house was lost in Cyclone Amphan. Sufia does not know when she will be able to go home. The cyclone has taken away all her belongings. Location: Kurikahunia village in Asashuni upazila of Satkhira district.
40-year-old Kulsum Bibi and her husband Babar Ali Sheikh lost everything in Cyclone Amphan. Their house was damaged in the cyclone and is still inundated. A day after Amphan, they took some household goods to the launch terminal and are living there. Location: Pratapnagar in Asashuni upazila of Satkhira district.
Family on the boat. There were houses inside the embankment. There was a yard in front of the house. But now the yard and the houses are all submerged. Omar Ali Sardar and his wife Amirun Nesha now live on the fishing boat of their son. They have no home. Location: Sreepur village in Asashuni upazila of Satkhira district.

Life on the embankment

Usha Rani Mandal lost everything in Cyclone Amphan and is still in shock. She is unable to talk. She had everything at her home — fruit trees, a vegetable garden. Her husband Khokon Mandal had worked hard and saved money to build their house. The house was swept away in the cyclone. Mandals are now living on the embankment. Location: Hajatkhali village of Koyra upazila of Khulna district.
Anita Rani’s house was submerged during the cyclone and is now living on the embankment. It has become difficult to sustain the lives of people affected by the cyclone. They struggling for three meals a day. How do you feed your cattle? Location: Hajatkhali village in Koyra upazila of Khulna district.
Embankment on the banks of Kapatakkha river. People have built settlements outside that embankment. Several houses are submerged. Cooking and other household chores are under the open sky. Location: Uttar Bedkashi in Koyra upazila of Khulna district.

Drinking water and fuel crisis

There is water everywhere, but an acute shortage of drinking water. Most tubewells are throwing out saltwater. Only some tubewells are functional where people crowd to collect water – for bathing, cooking, and drinking. After bathing in the open, women return home with the water from the tubewell. Location: Gobra village of Koyra upazila of Khulna district.
Water all around but not a drop to drink. Crop, farmlands, roads, everything is submerged under saltwater. Women have to walk long distances to fetch drinking water. The workload on women has increased tremendously. Location: Gobra village of Koyra upazila of Khulna district.
Fuel crisis has intensified in Cyclone Amphan affected areas. Women are unable to find fuel to cook food on. Location: Uttar Bedkashi in Koyra upazila of Khulna district.

Risky embankment, for how long?

This is a ring dam. Village after village has submerged due to the collapse of such a dam in Cyclone Amphan. After the cyclone, local people tried to block the water by building a ring dam over the farmland. In some areas, they have prevented saltwater ingression. But others continue to suffer. Location: Kashir Hatkhola area of ​​Koyra upazila of Khulna district

Behind the scenes students

Thousands of crises occurred after the cyclone. People are destitute. Their houses are lost. All belongings are washed away. Children have lost their books, and education is least of a concern. Arun Mandal is trying to find his books from the rubble of his house. Location: Hajatkhali village of Koyra upazila of Khulna district.

Rafiqul Islam Montu is a Dhaka-based journalist who writes on climate change, human rights, coastal communities, land rights.