Kushal Roy, Uthpal Kumar, Hasan Mehedi, Tania Sultana & D M Ershad | May 2009
The devastating cyclone Aila struck the southwestern coastal region of Bangladesh and eastern coast of the neighbouring West Bengal province of India on the mid-day of 25 May 2009. Unlike the Cat-4 cyclone Sidr of 2007, Aila is a Cat-1 cyclonic storm and hunted less lives, but its chain of devastation stayed active longer, even after two weeks of the storm passed. The worst two affected districts are Satkhira and Khulna followed by Bagerhat, Pirojpur, Barisal, Patuakhali, Bhola, Laksmipur, Noakhali, Feni, Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar. This Initial Assessment Report is prepared focusing on Khulna District only. The worst affected upazilas of Khulna district are Koyra, Dacope, Paikgacha and Batiaghta. According to the official statistics 545,954 people of 118,757 families are affected in Khulna while death toll stands on 45 as of 3 June 2009. Loss of livestock and poultry has been reported as 2080 and 24505, respectively. In total 367 km of road has been fully damaged while 1065 km of road is partially damaged. About 7392 acres of agricultural land has been damaged although estimates of crop damage are not confirmed yet. The horrifying fact is about 594 km of embankment has been damaged which is still letting the river water to freely flow on land and lengthening the stay of waterlogged conditions. Diarrhoea has broken out in the district as 3700 and 4500 people are reported as affected in Dacope and Koyra, respectively. The scenario revealed by the unofficial sources and the survey teams are more horrifying. Death toll, as on 3 June 2009, climbs up to 109 only in Koyra and Dacope. In these two upazilas, incidents of diarrhoeal diseases have crossed 16000, reports quoting locals. Six (6) deaths due to dirrhoea till date also have been confirmed. Loss of livestock and poultry, as observed, might well exceed 13000 and 23000, respectively. Figures of injured livestock and poultry also might well surpass 60,000 and 200,000 respectively, of which a major portion is on the verge of near death. Aila took a heavy toll on agriculture and fisheries. A total of 23,905 hectares of gher and 435 hectares of ponds are still inundated in Khulna and the survey team observed a total loss in culture fisheries. Koyra, Dacope and Paikgacha upazilas also suffered a total loss of crop. Cyclone Aila inflicted a heavy damage on coastal livelihoods. Water, dry food, shelter and proper medication are four highest priority areas for assistance now. There is also a dire need for proper sanitation facilities. Restoration and repairing of roads and embankments are also high priority areas of concern. As repair of embankments should take a while, emergency assistance is required for the affected people to cover up to 3-4 months of food and shelter security, while extended relief assistance might be needed in some worst affected areas. There is also an urgent need to start recovery and rehabilitation program as Aila features a mammoth damage on physical structures. Special and emergency assistance are required for the people of remote areas who are still surrounded by water. The expansion of safety nets for relief, and an early start up of public work schemes are necessary to generate employment and household income in the area might be the key strategies for early recovery. Immediate recovery, long term recovery and rehabilitation and repair of embankments should serve as the strongest elements of a sound planning with emphasis to investigate the causes of this mass destruction from a relatively weak cyclone and taking proper action to reduce future risks. We observed that, despite being a Cat-1 cyclone, Aila took a heavy toll on the coastal people’s livelihoods. The main damage was done by the flooding of water breached through the damaged embankments all round the district. It was found that there is a one-to-one relationship between the damage of the embankment and breaching activities by the shrimp farmers near the particular embankment. Affected communities reported that, frequent breaching of the embankments to lift saline water in ghers made the half-century old embankments quite weak and led it break down during the tidal surge inflicted by cyclone Aila. Negligence in properly repairing the embankments with a buffer zone in a place has also contributed to the damage of the embankment. Moreover, silting up of the river beds in region has also forced the tidal surge and usual river flow to put immense continuous pressure on the embankments to make them even weaker. It’s not Aila that solely responsible for the havoc in the coast of Bangladesh, rather it’s the failure of the embankment to protect the coastal belt from storm surge that is majorly responsible for the said wreckage.
Roy K., Kumar U., Mehedi H., Sultana T. and Ershad D M (2009). Cyclone Aila 2009: Initial Assessment Report with focus on Khulna District. Retrieved from
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273771123_Cyclone_Aila_2009_Initial_Assessment_Report_with_focus_on_Khulna_District. Accessed on: 18 March 2021