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8 January, 2019 00:00 00 AM

Continuing cold weather hampers life

Mercury is dipping everywhere. Even in the capital Dhaka where the bite of cold is usually less severe than other places of the country, the wintry chill is being felt strongly
Rayhan Ahmed Topader
Continuing cold weather hampers life

Cold weather kills thousands of people across the world each year. There is an immediate concern that hundreds of people will lose their life if the cold snap continues without intervention. The risk of cold related illnesses like frostbite and hypothermia is high in the poor, elderly and young. Thousands of people are in immediate and urgent need of blankets and winter clothing to save their lives and relieve their suffering. Each night that goes by presents a serious risk of loss of life due to extreme cold. The Met office says the big chill is likely to prevail across the country and could even deepen on Tuesday, when new record lows may be felt in the central and southern parts. It is the northern areas which have so far borne the brunt of the brutal cold, with at least 12 people, including six children, dying of cold-related ailments in Rajshahi, Kurigram and Thakurgaon districts over the past four days.Many children and elderly people have been suffering badly during the inclement weather, crowding hospitals and clinics, while the economically poor day labourers and rickshaw-pullers have been left shivering in the extreme cold. In other parts of the country, the cold wave has been sweeping over Bogra, Chuadanga, Dinajpur, Nilphamari, Panchagarh, Rangpur, Barisal and Sreemangal, according to reports. The month of January will experience a series of temperature drops below 10 degrees Celsius, and in some cases, might fall below 8 degrees Celsius in some parts.

Most of the cold is likely to be felt on the northern and north-western regions of Bangladesh. Foggy is likely to settle in on the river basins and the northern, north-western and north-eastern parts.January is the coldest month in Bangladesh. This year will be no different. The cold is likely to persist for the rest of the month, Met Official Md Abdul Mannan said. A cold wave has set in with temperatures recorded as low as 7.2°C in Sreemangal upazila of Moulvibazar district in Sylhet. The temperature there has been fluctuating for the last few days, temperature recorded at 7.3°C. The temperature was recorded to be 7.2°C.According to Sreemangal weather office Assistant Observer Md Anisur Rahman, historically, the temperature inside Moulvibazar faces a drop during the end of winter and stays like that for the first week of February. The bitter cold is making the lives of the general people extremely difficult, the locals said. On the other hand, the cold wave is also affecting the tourism business in Sreemangal. Director of Dhaka Delta Tourism told this correspondent: Tourists are not enthusiastic about visiting Sreemangal in this cold weather. Several families have cancelled their tours. This is affecting our business negatively. Almost all modes of commutation have severely been disrupted as dense fog continues to sweep across the country.

Flight operations at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka were disrupted for six hours recently due to dense fog, leading to cancellation of all domestic flights and diversion of an international flight.The airport was covered with thick fog, leading to diversion of a Kuala Lumpur-Dhaka fight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines to Kolkata. Besides, all domestic flights were cancelled as the runway visibility dropped since 5:10am,

Poor runway visibility forced the airport authorities to stop both inbound and outbound flight operations, the officer said, adding that a domestic flight left the airport after 11am as fog disappeared. Meanwhile, ferry services on the Paturia-Daulatdia route were suspended for six hours due to dense fog, reports our Manikganj correspondent. Ferry services on the route were suspended from 4:30am because of the poor visibility caused by thick fog,” said Nasir Mohammad Chowdhury, assistant general manager of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation at Aricha. Six ferries carrying passengers and vehicles were marooned in the Padma River. Seven ferries in Paturia and three in Daulatdia remained docked owing to the navigational hazard. The services, however, resumed around 10:30am as the fog disappeared.In the last six days, the intensity of cold waves running throughout the country is increasing. Expectedly, winter fast approaching its climax, the sweeping bone-chilling cold will continue for another few days.

Mercury is dipping everywhere. Even in the capital Dhaka where the bite of cold is usually less severe than other places of the country particularly the northern areas, the wintry chill is being felt strongly now. According to the weather forecast, in the next few days, cold spell may be even more severe and it is the impoverished people of the country who will be hit hard. They will also be exposed to various cold-related diseases. Moreover, a cold spell for a longer time can also play havoc with the crops of the country. It was observed in the past that when cold struck severely it affected the crops. A prolonged cold may cause Boro seedlings to die and as a result of this, yield of the seasonal crops might fall short of the target. Nature's fury cannot be stopped, but surely there are measures that can be taken beforehand to minimise the damage of the crops. The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) should take up a project to create seedbeds of its own in strategic places so that it can supply seedlings to farmers in times of need.The government's relevant departments including the ministry of disaster management and relief and the ministry of agriculture must take necessary preparation for protecting the poor people and combating agricultural losses. During the winter season, many people and organisations usually extend help to the poor people by providing them with warm cloths.

The same should be done during this winter. The ministry of disaster management should also start distributing adequate warm cloths including blankets to the cold-stricken people everywhere. When it comes to blanket distribution drives, it is imperative to make sure those blankets reach the most remote and poverty-stricken areas, and that resources are not pocketed by unscrupulous middle-men. Last of all, Bangladesh has been blessed with a good climate, and our winters are relatively short. Let us take care of our people in this time. None of these deaths make sense. Winter is, after all, a cyclical thing: not only expected, but guaranteed. And the extreme cold weather that often accompanies winter is foreseeable, as is the vulnerability to hypothermia, and illness leading to death for those with no housing or poor housing. Despite all of this predictability, despite the obvious security threat posed by winter, cold-weather deaths continue. What’s particularly striking is the general lack of concern for those who are at risk of dying. It seems we’ve come to expect that our governments will protect some security interests but not others.These winter deaths should not be blamed solely on the cold weather, but rather also on governments who fail to assume responsibility for the poor and homeless. If governments don’t want to be implicated in these deaths, they must, at the very least, institute a zero-tolerance policy for preventable cold-weather deaths.

In the short term, this may mean subsidizing heating costs for those who are poor, and making available adequate emergency services that provide shelter while maintaining the dignity of every individual who makes use of them. In the longer term, governments must adopt housing strategies that demonstrate an understanding of the intersections between housing, and other economic and social policies, human security, and human rights.

The writer is a contributor to The Independent



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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