Feb 23, 2022 3 min read

Slum dwellers struggle with flood water

Slum dwellers struggle with flood water
A woman crosses a bridge in a slum on the outskirts of Chittagong, Bangladesh. Photo: Ramisa Maliyath

In the slums of Bangladesh, people are often forced to consume water contaminated with drain water and are pushed to extreme hardships due to climate change, writes Ramisa Maliyath from Chittagong, Bangladesh.

"Sometimes, we feel nauseous after drinking water. The water is very dirty because it's mixed with water from open drains. We get water from a narrow pipe without a pump. We experience allergies, diarrhoea and vomiting," says Rozina Begum, who has spent the last 12-years living in a slum of Bangladesh.

The slum along a black canal. Photo: Ramisa Maliyath

In Bangladesh, thousands of people like Rozina Begum, live in conditions unfit for human habitation. Often, they have no choice, but to adapt themselves to living such adverse conditions.

Climate change and poverty often go hand-in-hand. In Bangladesh, this relationship is vividly exemplified. Storms, cyclones, and flash floods are common occurrences here due to the country's geographical location. These natural disasters often aggravate poverty in the region.

Improper waste management and drainage congestion are among the main triggering factors for the occurrence of frequent floods, especially in urban and rural slum areas. In particular, monsoon comes as a trauma to the people of the urban slums of Bangladesh.

Flash floods caused due to extreme rainfall, often triggered by climate change, impact the daily lives of people residing in the slums. With no source of clean drinking water, these people are forced to consume contaminated water.

Rozina Begum shows the 'flash flood alley'. Photo: Ramisa Maliyath

The drinking water that the slum people get has high concentrations of iron in them, with a bad odour. With a lack of treatment facilities due to no access to resources and knowledge, people get frequently infected with diseases like diarrhoea and skin problems.

The floodwater remains stagnant even when the rain stops the lack of a post-disaster management system. Many of the slum dwellers keep shifting from one slum to the other with the hope to have a better place to live in.

One of the few water pumps in the neighbourhood. Photo: Ramisa Maliyath

"Water is a big issue in our slum. Heavy rain and flooding are causing damage to our homes. The floodwater may rise up to our beds. We suffer a lot from flash floods. Besides this, we don't have access to drinking water," says Razina Begum.

Sometimes people pass days and nights sitting over a bed or a chair to save themselves from the dirty and polluted floodwater. The children cannot go to school and they stay drenched all day long.

"At night, after finishing our work, we spend hours queuing to collect water. Even then, we don't get enough drinking water. People sit on chairs and beds to protect themselves from floodwaters. Even the earthen stoves are put over the beds in order to cook rice," says Rozina Begum

In such circumstances, for slum dwellers in Bangladesh, the only hope for better days is help from the government.

"If the government can solve our problems and ensure safe drinking water, we would be very happy."

People like Rozina Begum are the fighters and are willing to collaborate in initiatives taken by the government or non-government associations for putting an end to their long-lasting miseries.

"We need to survive these dirty conditions. How can someone live like this?" asks Razina Begum.

Ramisa Maliyath
Ramisa Maliyath
Ramisa is graduated with a double major in Environmental Science and Public Health at Asian University for Women in Bangladesh.
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