4:34 pm - Saturday October 18, 5862

Disaster-resistant homes bring relief to coastal Bangladeshis

“Even a light wind used to pound my heart, lest my home would be washed away again,” Begum told Khabar South Asia. “We used to jump from bed and started praying to the Almighty.”

shelter homeThe Bainpara village residents in southwestern Bagerhat District moved to a makeshift bamboo-and-thatched home on the edge of the Shibsha River which swells every six hours, inundating the ground underneath. Its roar of wind and tidal surge constantly reminded them of Aila’s devastation .

Now, her days of worrymay be overthanks to the UN Development Programme’s ( UNDP ) Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) aimed at rehabilitating Aila victims. Over 100 families have been rehabilitated so far in the embankment-protected nearby Sutarkhali village in Khulna.

Begum and the other families each received a separate home on six decimal land (2,613 sq. feet) for free. The concrete houses with durable ferro-cement roofs are built to withstand 215kph winds.

That the solar-panel-lit, saline-resistant houses are fitted with big rainwater harvest tanks and located near a pond, fulfill residents’ sweet water needs. People can take refuge in them when they receive early cyclone warnings through mobile phones.

“Now, we can sleep without fear,” Begum said.

The Housing and Building Research Institute designed the homes for coastal areas facing dangers posed by salinity and climate change.

“This is the first time we have designed disaster-resistant homes for coastal people . This project should be replicated for the people of other coastal areas ,” Mohammad Abu Sadeque, institute director, told Khabar.

Fellow Aila victim Kohinoor Begum isn’t as lucky. She’s yet to receive her new house.

“At least 50 families like us have been fighting the saline water on a daily basis,” she told Khabar. “Shibsha has washed away our homestead.”

CDMP specialist Otin Dewan told Khabar: “We have set up a disaster resilient village, rehabilitating people from Bainpara, one of the worst affected areas of climate change”.

Still, Krishnapodo of Sutarkhali said the government should take further steps to ensure safety of residents. “Now, the authorities should rehabilitate the embankment so that tidal surge cannot affect the houses,” he told Khabar.

Anis Mahmud, Khulna deputy commissioner, told Khabar he wrote the Water Development Board requesting embankment maintenance. “Hopefully the dike would be rehabilitated soon,” he said.

– Kamran R. Chowdhury for Khabar South Asia in Dhaka