GIEWS Update Bangladesh: Severe floods in 2017 affected large numbers of people and caused damage to the agriculture sector

Highlights:

  • Severe floods in 2017 have affected at least 8 million people, causing deaths and injuries, loss of livestock and food supplies, and damage to housing and infrastructure.

  • The floods caused severe damage to the agriculture sector, including crop losses of the main food staple rice, with most of the damage concentrated in the northern districts.

  • Prices of rice, the country’s main staple, reached record levels in September, mostly reflecting flood-induced crop losses in 2017. Overall, rice prices remained 30 percent above their year-earlier levels.

  • The impact of the floods and the resulting elevated prices of rice have severely compromised the livelihoods of the affected households.

Overview

Bangladesh is prone to floods during the monsoon season, which normally extends from June to September. In 2017, three episodes of severe flash floods affected large areas of the country, particularly the northern districts. The floods caused loss of lives and affected the livelihoods of at least 8 million people. Regarding the agriculture sector, the floods resulted in losses of food crops (including the main staple rice), livestock and fish stocks, as well as household food reserves. Retail prices of coarse rice (in Dhaka), the country’s main staple, rose by at least 30 percent since the start of the year, reaching record levels in September 2017, as a result of the flood-induced crop losses of the 2017 main season and supply tightness associated with reduced imports and output in 2016.
The high level of prices raises serious concerns about access to food by the most vulnerable sections of the population.

Significant paddy losses at sub-national level

Floods in March and April 2017

Heavy rains in late March and early April triggered severe flash floods over northeastern parts of the country, affecting approximately 850 000 households and causing severe damage to food crops, housing and infrastructure, including bridges and roads. The most affected districts were Sylhet, Moulvibazar,
Sunamganj, Habiganj, Netrokona and Kishoregani.
According to official estimates, the floods in April caused severe damage to nearly 220 000 hectares of crops, mostly to the ready-to-be harvested “boro” paddy crop in low-lying areas. The floods only had a marginal impact on the overall 2017 wheat output, as the flood-affected areas account for less than 1 percent of the total national wheat production.

Floods in July 2017

In late June and July, heavy monsoon rains caused the main northern and northeastern rivers of Bangladesh to overflow, triggering flash floods and landslides and resulting in widespread inundations in the low-lying areas. The most affected districts were Sylhet and Moulvibazar in the northeast, which were just recovering from the April floods, as well as Rangourm Kurigram, Sirajganj, Jamalpur, Bogra, Lalmionirhat,
Gaibanha and Nilphamari.

According to official estimates, the July floods affected about 1.6 million people (some 338 500 households), damaged over 100 000 houses and destroyed schools, roads, bridges and embankments. At the time of floods, the 2017 “aus” paddy crop, which represents about 7 percent of the annual output, was in late development stage, while planting of the 2017 “aman” paddy crop, accounting for 38 percent of the annual output, had just started. According to the Government assessments, the impact of the floods on standing crops was limited, with only about 40 000 hectares of cropped land reported to be inundated.

Floods in August 2017

The northern part of the country was again hit by heavy rains in August, which caused rivers to overflow, resulting in severe floods in 31 out of the country’s 64 districts. According to information from the Network for Information, Response and Preparedness Activities on Disaster (NIRAPAD) of Bangladesh, floods adversely affected the livelihoods of about 6.8 million people and caused significant damage to housing and infrastructure. Preliminary estimates indicate that about 16 000 hectares were fully lost and 560 000 hectares of standing crops were partially damaged. Although a comprehensive evaluation of the August flood damage to food crops is not yet available, “aman” rice paddy in low-lying areas is likely to be affected the most.