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When the Dam Breaks - A Photo Essay by A. M. Ahad

“It is difficult to see the supplies getting spoiled before our eyes. Whatever we have left and can collect is satisfying to some extent,” says Abul Kashem, a farmer in his late thirties, as he stares at a boat ferrying the crop recovered from his paddy field to dry land. Kashem’s three bigha of land now lies submerged in floodwaters. Where there were once fields of green paddy, now there flows a wide grey river. More than 90 per cent of arable land in Jingabuta Haor was flooded when the onrush of water from the Dhanu river broke down the Haizda embankment in Mohanganj Upazilla, Netrokona. Kashem stands on the brink of the broken dam, not very far from the ripening boro paddy that he is trying to salvage. Local villagers in the area volunteered to help repair the damaged parts of the dam, but their efforts did not stop the flooding. By April 22, more than two thirds of the land was under water. Shahid Iqbal, the chairman of Mohanganj upazila, claims that their attempts to protect the dam were futile. “There’s no use struggling with the river flow,” he said. The Water Development Board supervisor of the Mohanganj area Fazlul Haque says that it was impossible to predict the rapid rise in water levels, and hence impossible to take prior precautions. He also believed that the flood could have been avoided if the embankment had been built higher, or if the riverbed had been dredged previously. Sabur Ali, a local farmer, blames the authorities. “For five years, there has been no reconstruction of the damaged dam, just because the leaders engulfed the funds.” Desperate to minimize losses, the farmers are trying their best to recover the immersed paddy. Md Habibur Rahman, a farmer, now pays labourers each 700 to 800 taka a day, more than five times the usual salary. “Though it makes no sense in spending that money, the crop is like our child. It is hard to see them perish before our eyes,” said Rahman. As the farmers continue their recovery efforts, one villager, Md. Ripon, knows that their troubles are far from over. “It will take a few days to discover the real aftermath,” he said. Indeed, other than the immediate problems of having to harvest the crops quickly, the consequences of the flooding will continue to be felt even later on. A future shortage of food grain will lead to a loss of business by local merchants, as well as a potential rise in the price of grain as imports are brought in from surrounding areas. Without land for grazing and food to feed the cattle, local farmers and cattle farms may also be forced to sell off the cows before Eid-ul-Azha, depriving them of the good prices such livestock usually fetch at the annual Muslim festival. While the villagers and authorities try to explain and understand how their lives have been turned upside down in the span of just a few days, at least one farmer, Mustafa, has an explanation for it all. “It is God’s wish, and there is nothing we can do.”

photo essays, photojournalism, A.M. Ahad, photography-news.com, Photography News, Diana Topan, flood photos
A part of the submerged cropland at the Dingabuta Haor in Mohanganj, approximately 15 kilometers away from the overflowing Haizda embankment. Humayun Kabir Khan, a native, said “With people having no money, rice market will soon be ceased; there will be no business at all”. Photo © A.M. Ahad


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It didn’t take more than 72 hours to submerge 6000 hectares of cropland at the Dingabuta Haor in Mohanganj. Photo © A.M. Ahad


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Just before the water hit some areas, farmers hurriedly slashed away immature paddies at the Dingabuta Haor in Mohanganj. Mohanganj upazila Chairman Shahid Iqbal said, “We could not make any difference, there’s no use struggling with the river flow”. Photo © A.M. Ahad


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A labourer carries some drenched paddies, collected from the submerged Dingabuta Haor in Mohanganj. Desperate farmers paid up to 800 taka per labourer a day to recover paddies, more than five times the usual price. Photo © A.M. Ahad


photo essays, photojournalism, A.M. Ahad, photography-news.com, Photography News, Diana Topan, flood photos
A labourer stacks drenched paddies, collected from the submerged Dingabuta Haor in Mohanganj. Photo © A.M. Ahad


photo essays, photojournalism, A.M. Ahad, photography-news.com, Photography News, Diana Topan, flood photos
A labourer stacks drenched paddies, collected from the submerged Dingabuta Haor in Mohanganj. Photo © A.M. Ahad


photo essays, photojournalism, A.M. Ahad, photography-news.com, Photography News, Diana Topan, flood photos
Just before the water hit some areas, farmers hurriedly slashed away immature paddies at the Dingabuta Haor in Mohanganj. Photo © A.M. Ahad


photo essays, photojournalism, A.M. Ahad, photography-news.com, Photography News, Diana Topan, flood photos
A labourer carries a tray of drenched paddies, collected from the submerged Dingabuta Haor in Mohanganj. Photo © A.M. Ahad


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A stack of paddies at the Dingabuta Haor in Mohanganj; boats that brought them in were paid up to 1000 taka per trip to the dry land. Hashem Ali, a native said, “The money spent in collecting the submerged harvest should better be used in buying rice”. Photo © A.M. Ahad


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A mouse atop some floating hays over the flooded cropland at the Dingabuta Haor in Mohanganj. When asked about the situation, Mustafa, a young man from the neighbourhood said, “It is God’s wish, there’s nothing we can do”. Photo © A.M. Ahad


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Labourers carry paddies to adjacent dryland collected from the Dingabuta Haor in Mohanganj. Desperate farmers paid up to 800 taka per labourer a day to recover paddies, more than five times the usual amount. Boatmen charged around 1000 taka per trip to the dryland. Photo © A.M. Ahad


photo essays, photojournalism, A.M. Ahad, photography-news.com, Photography News, Diana Topan, flood photos
“It is difficult to see the yield spoil before our eyes. Whatever we have left and can collect is satisfying to some extent,” says Abul Kashem, a farmer in his late 30s, as he stares at a boat ferrying the crop recovered from his paddy field to dry land at the Dingabuta Haor in Mohanganj. Photo © A.M. Ahad


photo essays, photojournalism, A.M. Ahad, photography-news.com, Photography News, Diana Topan, flood photos
Labourers take away sacks of threshed paddies from the Dingabuta Haor in Mohanganj. Humayun Kabir Khan, a farmer, said “With people having no money, rice market will soon be ceased; there will be no business at all”. Photo © A.M. Ahad

Photos: A.M. Ahad / DrikNEWS
Text: Nabil / DrikNEWS
All Rights Reserved

About the photographer:

A. M. Ahad is a photojournalist based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Born in 1987, he got interested in photography which he studied at Stamford University. Ahad started his career as a contributor photojournalist for several daily newspapers, then as a staff photojournalist at DrikNEWS, an international photo agency in Bangladesh. He is now a staff photojournalist at The Daily Sun in Bangladesh.


5 comments:

  1. Anonymous says

    it must be really tough for those people. i hope they find their strenght to build everything all over again


    Anonymous says

    beautiful pictures that fill one's heart with compassion for the people trying to survive nature's wrath.


    Anonymous says

    nice works with the camera............it is really true a picture say thousand things..........


    Maria Deems says

    For some reason... this breaks my heart...


    James Lackey says

    It is still hurting by seeing this pictures.Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable.I am working for out home advertising. OOH media software has been a powerful type of advertising; it is empowered us to build our households and expansion our revenue, therefore empowering me to contract more workers and appreciate the achievement that we have. Out of home (ooh) advertising and web are the two quickest developing media segments.


5 comments so far. What do you think?