Tropical cyclones have been hitting the countries bordering the Bay of Bengal since ancient time. Ain-i-Akbari, written by Abul Fazl during the Mughal period, mentions that a terrible cyclone struck the coastal area of Barishal district in 1574. The devastating cyclone that swept through Barishal, Noakhali and Chattogram districts in 1876 killed about two lakh people. In a series of cyclones in Bangladesh, on 12 November 1970, a catastrophic cyclone with a speed of 225 km per hour and a tidal wave of 20 to 35 feet high hit large areas of Patuakhali, Bhola and Noakhali districts. The calamity, known as ' Cyclone 1970', caused more than a million human deaths.
Bangabandhu, 1970 cyclone and the Election Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was campaigning when the cyclone hit the country. Shortly after the cyclone, he stopped campaigning and traveled extensively in the affected areas for about two weeks and stands behind the people. At that time, he found numerous proofs of the Pakistani government’s negligence in protecting people from the cyclone. Returning to Dhaka on 27 November, he covered the whole matter in the national and international media. This showed that every Bengali was in a real life crisis at that time. He blamed the central government of Pakistan for killing one million Bengalis, depicting the death of one million people in that cyclone and the struggle for survival among the wreckage of another three million people. His statement further strengthened the mentality of the besieged people and neglected nation and seriously affected the decision of the people of East Bengal in the election.It was evident that the reasons for the high death toll in the Cyclone 1970 was the failure of the dictatorial Pakistani government to prioritize coastal risk mitigation activities in East Pakistan, institutional weaknesses in early warning and public awareness.The great leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman vividly portrayed the true picture of that time as well as devoted himself to the service of the distressed people in different parts of Bhola and Noakhali, distributed relief materials as much as possible and provided consolation to the people. In that time he felt the importance of institutionalizing disaster risk reduction.Due to Bangabandhu's initiative, the people of the world were shocked to hear the news of ' Cyclone 1970'. The news of the loss of so many lives in a cyclone shook people's hearts. The world conscience was stunned even for a moment. Following the tragedy, the UN General Assembly convened a special session and unanimously assigned the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society to take effective measures to reduce the damage caused by the cyclone in the coastal areas of the then East Pakistan.
Taking action on cyclone preparedness After the Bhola cyclone, several delegates from the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society came to the country to assist in relief and rehabilitation work. One of them, Mr. Clase Hagstroem, a Swedish citizen, came to Dhaka in September 1971 as a relief delegate and started cyclone preparedness activities. Mr. Hagstroem interacted with people of all walks of life in the cyclone-hit areas of Patuakhali, Barishal and Bhola districts. After a two-month visit to the coastal region, Mr. Hagstroem outlined the ‘Cyclone Preparedness Programme’.
Primary Set-up Cyclone preparedness activities initially started in the then greater Chattogram, Noakhali, Bakerganj (Barishal) districts (in 23 thanas, named Teknaf, Cox's Bazar, Maheshkhali, Chakoria, Kutubdia, Sandeep, Sitakunda, Mirsarai, Sonagazi, Companiganj, Sudharam, Hatiya, Ramgati, Monpura, Doulotkhan, Lalmohan, Tajumuddin, Char Fashion, Galachipa, Kalapara, Amtali, Barguna and Patharghata)By August 1,972, a total of 19,270 volunteers from 1,926 units under 17 unions of 23 thanas were selected.Wireless communication of Dhaka and regional offices has been established with all the coastal thanas to ensure a reliable and electrification system for early warning of cyclones. At the same time, wireless communication at the thana level was established with distant unions and isolated islands. A radio workshop was set up in Dhaka and two repair workshops were set up in Chattogram and Barishal to keep a large number of signaling devices with more than a hundred wireless sets in operation.
Construction of Mujib Killa (Earthen Fort) On 17 March 1972, on the birthday of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the construction of the first earthen fort officially started at Maulvi Char of Hatiya and the construction was completed a month later. The fort was inaugurated on 20th April and was renamed as 'Mujib Killa'.It may be mentioned that in view of the necessity and effectiveness of the fort, Bangabandhu allocated funds for the construction of more than two hundred forts along the coast. On the basis of that allocation, in 1973-74, the CPP completed the construction of 137 Mujib forts in different areas of the coast.
Bangabandhu's approval confirmed CPP's sustainability In that period a question was raised about the sustainability of a much-needed organization like the CPP. When the matter was presented to Bangabandhu, he realized that the organization working to save the lives and property of millions of people living in the coastal areas should not be dependent on the uncertain financial support of any foreign organization.On 28 July 1973, Bangabandhu in a groundbreaking proposal gave written approval to the effect that all costs of the Cyclone Preparedness Program would be borne by the Government of Bangladesh and the organization would be jointly managed by the Government of Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Red Cross Society.With the approval of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a policy committee headed by the Minister of Disaster Management and Relief was formed and an Implementation Board headed by the Secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief was formed to conduct the program. Mentionable that the said Policy Committee and Implementation Board was constituted with the approval of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and its sections and subsections were continuously included in the Standing Orders on Disaster.
Bangabandhu’s Inspiration to the volunteers In 1973, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman spoke to CPP volunteers via wireless. Encouraged them in humanitarian work, embedded the motto of volunteerism in their hearts. The CPP's single-sided band wireless set was installed at the Prime Minister’s temporary office on Bailey Road (opposite the east gate of Ramna Park). At the field level, all the offices of the CPP are connected to large loudspeakers with wireless. Thousands of volunteers were present in front of the office. Bangabandhu spoke spontaneously for about 10/12 minutes. The volunteers and the people present were mesmerized by the great leader's eloquent speech. Even today, many senior volunteers can be heard reminiscing about Bangabandhu's speech. Looking at the selfless service of CPP volunteers without any financial return, it is believed that the inspiration of Bangabandhu is still in the hearts of CPP volunteers for generations to come.