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Torrential rain inundates Dhaka

  • Published at 04:09 pm October 21st, 2017
  • Last updated at 05:32 pm October 21st, 2017
Torrential rain inundates Dhaka
Parts of the capital city have gone under water following torrential rain over three days. Heavy rain also submerged various areas, adding to the misery of the city dwellers. Many streets in Dhaka's Mirpur, Mohammadpur, Shukrabad, Kalabagan, Karwan Bazar, Tejkunipara, Old Dhaka, Shantinagar, Puranapaltan, Motijheel, Mohakhali and Gulshan areas were seen under knee deep water due to the city's poor drainage system on Saturday morning.

Traffic on Dhaka's usually congested streets come to a grinding halt when the streets go under water. The number of buses on the streets on Saturday morning was fewer than other days. Many were standing on the road hoping catch a ride while a number of people were seen waiting in front of their houses for rickshaws and autorickshaws. Salma, a resident of Shukrabad, was looking for a rickshaw to take her child to West Rajabazar. “I have been waiting since 8am, and have not found any ride in the last half an hour. I need to go to hospital as I have an appointment at 9:30am,” she said, fearing she might miss her appointment. Rabiul Islam, a private company employee, was waiting for bus at Shukrabad bus stop at 9am to go Motijheel but the vehicles were jam-packed. “I have been waiting for about 40 minutes. Buses are coming after long intervals and they are full,” he added.

'Torrential rain may trigger water shortage'

Dhaka may experience a shortage was fresh water again as the stagnant rainwater is now seeping into underground water storage tanks at residential buildings, contaminating the reserves. In many areas, the rainwater not only submerged the streets and alleyways but also flooded ground floors of many buildings.

Dhaka's Green Road near Farmgate after the three-day long torrential rain. The photo was taken around 11am on October 21 PHOTO: Dhaka Tribune

Shahdat, a resident of Shukrabad, said stagnant rain water was now leaking into their building’s underground water tanks. Shukrabad residents had made similar claims in September. Dhaka Wasa, two city corporations, the Deputy Commissioner Office, Rajuk, Water Development Board, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority and Dhaka Cantonment Board are working together to resolve water stagnation of the city and its adjacent areas. Wasa Managing Director Taqsem A Khan could not be reached for comments but a Wasa official said they were working to drain rainwater.

Where's the solution?

The residents of Dhaka's low-lying and adjacent areas still face waterlogging during monsoon despite concerned government agencies having drawn up various plans and ambitious projects. City residents face extensive waterlogging from May to October. According to a World Bank study published in 2015, potential damages from waterlogging between 2014 and 2050 will be Tk110 billion in Dhaka, if climate change is not considered. In a changing climate with more intense rainfalls, the loss will be Tk139 billion in the same period. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had directed Cabinet colleagues to address waterlogging problem in the capital as soon as possible. Wasa and two city corporations work to resolve waterlogging in Dhaka. Wasa has 370km of drains, while the DNCC and DSCC have around 2,000km – insufficient for draining rainwater as the connecting 26 drainage canals' velocity had been reduced due to encroachment.

PHOTO: Abu Hayat Mahmud

Dhaka's drainage network was designed to discharges storm water in the surrounding four rivers – Buriganga, Balu, Turag and Shitalakkhya – through the 26 canals. The capital had 65 canals but the number came down to 43 over time, Wasa said. Of the existing ones, around 20 have nearly vanished because of encroachment. In the past 25 years, urban planners had pointed out several times that rapid urbanisation of Dhaka city had resulted in substantial increase in impervious area, created obstruction to natural drainage patterns, and reduced the detention basins, which in turn led to the shortening of the runoff concentration time and an increase of the peak flow. Following failure of initiated plans and the prime minister's directive, the concerned authorities asked two private research organisations – Centre for Environmental and Geographical Information Services and the Institute of Water Modeling – to find out ways to get rid of waterlogging. Both research institutes recommended freeing the encroached waterbodies. They also suggested widening rivers and flood flow zones surroundings Dhaka city. The study pointed out that filling-up of wetlands in Ashulia, Banasree, Aftabnagar, Bashundhara, Meradia, Baunia, Badda, Amin Bazar and Hatirjheel increased waterlogging in Dhaka. Urban Planner Prof Nazrul Islam had told the Dhaka Tribune that the drainage network needed to be kept clear to resolve waterlogging. “The problem cannot be solved if the concerned agencies do not work together,” he added.