Bangladesh: Displacement due to embankment collapse - Emergency Plan of Action Final Report DREF n° MDRBD021



Description of the disaster

Shariatpur district, which is situated along the Padma river, the biggest river system in Bangladesh, has been severely affected by riverbank erosion caused by heavy rain and floods in some parts of India. The rise of water level in Padma river during the first two weeks of September 2018 caused major damage to the riverbank which led to collapse of embankments. According to the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre of Bangladesh water development Board (BWDB), the water level near Naria upazila (sub- district) increased from 5.6m to 6.6 between 13-19 September. This resulted in huge damage and significant impacts on the collapse of embankments, and many houses and shelters across about 5 km stretch of Padma river were washed away. The river has struck hard to the vulnerable points at that time because of its increased water level and velocity, hence the vulnerable portions of the embankments could not withstand it and collapsed along with farmlands, houses and infrastructures.

Four unions and one municipality of Naria upazila and Zajira upazila had been affected to an extent that is unusual in the country. In both upazilas, an estimated 8,710 families or approximately 43,550 people (8,595 families in Naria upazila and 115 families in Zajira upazila) were displaced, and all their houses were washed away1. Many people were unable to shift their houses and household items in time. Over 8,000 families (40,000 individuals) were living on the road and public lands after the displacement from their own houses. Affected families had lost everything including agricultural resources, cash and other assets and sources of livelihood.
Agricultural laborers experienced seasonal unemployment, low demands for labor due to single crop farming, low wage in the lean season (September to October)2. Furthermore, all existing facilities such as tube-wells, latrines were washed away into the river, therefore there was a dire need for safe drinking water and access to sanitation facilities.

According to a detailed assessment conducted in January 2019, most of the focus group discussion (FGD) participants are either renting land or renting shelter and land, while some are temporarily living in their relative’s house or in emergency shelters set up on their relative’s land. Those who are living in rented shelter or land also have to reduce their “food basket” in order to pay for rent. In addition, common latrines have also been reported as insufficient in the same communities. Likewise, livelihood opportunities remain unstable after the displacement. Most of the men shared that they used to be shopkeepers and farmers prior to the embankment collapse, but after the disaster they have little choice but to turn to daily labour (e.g. manual labour) as their main source of income. They have shared that paid daily labour is usually available only for 15 days per month or less, hence income is lower compared to what they would usually get prior to their displacement. Despite of so many challenges, participants from displaced households did not report any major health issues within their communities.