Aila was one of the most devastating cyclones to hit Bangladesh which caused widespread damage in the southern side of the country. The ensuing tidal surge flooded land and damaged embankments, affected 3.9 million people. The impact of cyclone Aila was profoundly felt ever since May 25th, 2009. Atul Roy, a 78 year old man, was forced to move out and live on the embankments with his wife due to severe damage in the coastal settlements and it appeared to them, that they would have to live here forever. Gunari, a village in Sutarkhali union of Dacope, which still is inhabitable, was Atul’s home, where he used to live with his six sons. Four of his sons were married and lived there in the village with their children. During midday - the day Aila hit the coasts; Atul suddenly witnessed for the first time his courtyard being inundated by ensuing water of the tides.
Before Aila struck, Atul and his six sons were living in six different neighboring houses. They were almost self-sufficient with the earnings and had a decent life. Unfortunately, Aila took almost everything from Atul and his family. His house was destroyed, and his livestock, poultry birds, shrimp and paddy were wiped out. Same was the case for his sons who had received 10 katha land from their father to be used for agricultural cultivations.
Atul Roy and his family members
Before Aila, all of Atul Roy’s sons were taking care of others farmers’ shrimp farms as daily laborers and at the same time were also looking after their own shrimp farm. Atul and his wife were very accustomed to the vital support they received from their sons but due to the impact of Aila, their agricultural land was flooded by saline water along with their neighbors and relatives’ land. They became economically handicapped and survival became an everyday battle. Many different development organizations provided food support and other emergency goods to such families for 1-2 months after Aila. Although, Atul Roy was a beneficiary of Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) programme and he receives 20 kg rice every month, this quantity of rice was not sufficient for all the family members for the whole month.
After Aila, they started living on the embankments, and soon started to realize, how hard it was to live without enough earnings and with almost no other income generating activities, and lack of food, health and sanitation, privacy, safe drinking water. They also had futile hopes that they would be able to return back to their homes soon enough. But after two months of Cyclone Aila, there was no improvement and also no signs of change in their situation. Losing all hope, Atul’s two sons, Amol Roy and Susanto Roy migrated to India along with their families. Atul Roy, while sharing his misfortune caused by Aila, mentioned, “My two sons left from for India permanently due to food crisis and unemployment. We are passing the most critical time of our whole lives.”
Atul Roy and his four sons who stayed behind with their families do not want to migrate to India. They still would like to observe the whole situation for a few more months. Even then, if the existing situation persists, they would have no choice but to resettle to another place within Bangladesh by the help of any organization. If the critical problems, like food shortage, scarcity of safe drinking water, embankment, income generating activities, sanitation are not solved within next six months, they will be compelled to go to India permanently as their last resort. Regarding migration issue he said, “We do not want to leave our homeland, but we don’t have any other alternative. “
The two damaged houses are memory for Amol Roy and Susanto Roy now.
This family is still hopeful that the embankment will be repaired soon and they will resume normal lives once again.