Home to a fifth of the world’s population, South Asia is increasingly vulnerable to climate change. While annual monsoon rains are crucial to the region’s agrarian economies, they have become increasingly unpredictable. As temperatures rise, the monsoon is now marked by short periods of very heavy rains, which can trigger deadly and rapid floods.
Millions stranded as heavy floods sweep through Bangladesh and India
Aid workers in Bangladesh estimate that at least 40 people have died in monsoon-related events, including lightning strikes and landslides, and the toll is expected to rise. Across the border in northeast India, authorities in Assam and Meghalaya said at least 115 people had been killed.
Both countries have urged their military to intervene for rescue and relief operations and have set up shelters for the displaced. Local media footage in Bangladesh shows people walking through waist-deep water, hugging a few personal effects in plastic bags held above their heads. Some made it to safety in narrow wooden boats. In Assam, people stranded in flooded homes said they had no food or clean water.
Data from the Indian Meteorological Department shows how drastically the weather is changing. During the first three weeks of June, the state of Assam received 109% more rain than normal; Neighboring Meghalaya saw nearly three times its average amount of rainfall. The town of Mawsynram recorded about 40 inches of rain in 24 hours on June 17, surpassing the previous record, observed in 1966.
“Densely populated South Asia is most vulnerable to climate change due to its proximity to the rapidly warming Indian Ocean in the south and rapidly melting glaciers in the north,” said Roxy Mathew Koll, a climatologist at the ‘Indian Institute of Tropical. Meteorology. Koll noted that there has been an intensification of heat waves, cyclones, extreme rainfall and sea level rise in recent years.
The lives of hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people are at stake.
Dewan Uddus Choudhury, a 44-year-old farmer from Barpeta district in Assam, is stuck in his partially submerged house with his wife and daughter. Food is running out and no government aid has reached them.
“We couldn’t get out of our house,” Choudhury said. “There’s six to eight feet of water outside.”
In another part of the state, two police officers engaged in rescue efforts were swept away by floodwaters, local media reported. Damage to a major highway in the region halted road travel to and from Tripura state and halted delivery of the essential.
In the northeast In Bangladesh, the districts of Sylhet and Sunamganj suffered from the floods.
Farid Uddin Ahmed, a government employee, traveled 13 hours – by bus, rickshaw, truck, on foot and finally by boat – to reach his flooded parents house in Sunamganj district. The trip usually takes half that time.
“I had to risk my life to reach my village,” Ahmed said. “There was no electricity. I found at least a meter and a half of water in the house.
Residents of Companiganj in Sylhet district said they had been without power for five days.
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Poor connectivity and communication problems are preventing aid from reaching those most in need, and aid workers say widespread flooding has made it difficult for them to stockpile rations to distribute.
“In many affected areas, the only means of mobility remains by boat, and these too are proving to be scarce in the current situation,” said Farah Kabir, country manager for ActionAid in Bangladesh.
Beyond the immediate need for food and clean water, people also need urgent access to healthcare, Kabir said, citing the risk of “waterborne diseases”.
Although monsoon floods are a recurring problem, experts say governments are often slow to act, reacting only after areas are under water. Authorities need to develop better forecasting mechanisms, build dykes and ensure people are informed in time, said Partha Jyoti Das, who heads the water and climate division of Aaranyak, a local NGO in Assam.
Ultimately, he said, short-term measures will not be enough. The government must “prepare a long-term action plan” to mitigate floods and disasters, enabling people to “gain resilience and coexist with river hazards in a sustainable manner”.
Majumder reported from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Naqvi from Guwahati, India.
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