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Monsoon: Dhaka again at risk of severe waterlogging

  • Published at 01:41 am May 6th, 2018
Monsoon: Dhaka again at risk of severe waterlogging
Dhaka city dwellers are facing the threat of severe waterlogging yet again, as the monsoon season draws near. The government agencies concerned are still working to resolve major drainage issues plaguing the capital. In 2017, waterlogging caused day-to-day life to come to a grinding halt in Dhaka. Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives (LGRD) Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain addressed the issue by ensuring the situation will not occur the next year. “Such waterlogging will not occur in the next monsoon, because we will take due measures and implement major initiatives to prevent this issue by the time monsoon hits next year. We have learned a lesson,” he had said in July, 2017. Despite the assurances, the real scenario seems to be largely unchanged compared to the previous year, because the government is yet to fully implement its promised preventive measures and projects. On April 29, major parts of Dhaka, such as Mirpur, Mohammadpur and Uttara, witnessed flooding after just one hour of rain. Commenting on the matter, renowned urban planner Prof Dr Akter Mahmud said: “According to most studies, there are a multitude of factors behind waterlogging in Dhaka. “Absence of a proper drainage network, defective drainage system, lack of proper maintenance, unplanned urbanization, decreasing number of water bodies and water retention zones and illegal encroachment of rivers and canals are some of the primary reasons for waterlogging.” [caption id="attachment_263187" align="aligncenter" width="900"] Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain[/caption]

Initiatives and current situation

The correspondent has learned that the authorities concerned have taken some initiatives for improving the drainage system of Dhaka. Initiatives are underway for introducing a new drain cleaning system, and projects such as increasing water retention zones, unclogging the canals through a coordinated effort are being implemented. However, a number of major initiatives have not progressed to a satisfactory level.

Expanding water retention zones

DWASA has selected 3,542 acres of area, including Dhaka’s Gobindopur and Bauthal Canals (620 acres), Sutibhola Canal (949 acres) Norail Canal (1108 acres), Goran Chatbari (632 acres) and Kallyanpur canal (233 acres) for maintaining water retention ponds. According the DWASA, preservation of ponds adjacent of Kallyanpur pumping station is progressing with an aim to be completed by June, 2020. [caption id="attachment_263188" align="aligncenter" width="900"] Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain[/caption]

Progress of drainage improvement initiative

The DWASA, Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) are each working separately on drainage improvement in the different areas of the Dhaka city. The DWASA is working primarily on the storm drain system, which handles the surface drain water. Under the initiative, DWASA is improving the drainage system to drain out the rain water at the Agargaon area with a cost of Tk2,422cr. The project was approved by the ECNEC on January 22, 2017 with a target to complete finish it by June last year, but some work is still underway. Meanwhile, another major project on “Expansion of drainage network and development of canals in Dhaka city” worth Tk24,800 lakh is progressing very slowly. Under the project, the DSCC would maintain around 961km and DNCC nearly 1200km of surface drains, which would be connected with the DWASA’s 10km long box culverts, 346km storm drains and 65km canals. However, most of the surface drains are not interconnected with storm drains, canals or box culverts in Dhaka. So, in many places of the city have drains, but rain water is unable to move through them. The DNCC and DSCC is currently implementing drainage network improvement projects worth around Tk3,000cr to solve the waterlogging crisis. But progress of most of these projects is slow. This is especially true for projects being implemented at Mirpur and Mohammadpur areas of the city. Prof Golum Moinuddin of the Jahangirnagar University, who lives in Banani area, told the reporter: “Banani Society put pressure on the DNCC to complete improving the drainage system and footpath in the area for the past year, but it was not implement within the schedule.”

Faulty cleanup system

Most drains in Dhaka are clogged by the solid waste and plastic garbage due to irregular cleanup and lack of awareness by the city dwellers. During a visit at the Farmgate, Shantinagar and Mirpur area, the correspondent has found that the workers are digging up the garbage from the underground drains, but leaving it on the streets. With even a little rainfall, the garbage again returns into the drainage system. [caption id="attachment_263189" align="aligncenter" width="900"] Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain[/caption]

Illegal occupation of canals

Dhaka used to have 65 natural canals moving throughout the city, but the number currently stands at only 26. Most of them are clogged by garbage and being taken over by illegal occupiers. The DWASA, DSCC, DNCC and Dhaka district administration are making a serious effort to ensure uninterrupted flow of water in the existing canals. The authorities have spent around Tk4cr annually only for conducting drives against the occupiers. But as soon as the drives end, the culprits just occupy the canals again because of lack of monitoring.

Lack of coordination among the agencies

The rain water initially flows towards the rivers using the surface drain, and then through the storm drains to canals, box culverts or pumps. The drainage system, water pump house, canals, rivers are maintained by a total seven government agencies. The agencies are- Bangladesh Water Development Board, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, Rajdhani Unnayan Katripakha and Dhaka district administration, along with the DWASA, DSCC and DNCC. However, there are complaints that these agencies do not coordinate among themselves on a regular basis. DWASA claimed on multiple occasions that the city corporations never clean the surface drain properly. On the other hand, officials from the both city corporations claimed the canals, box culverts and storm drains are clogged by garbage, which under the DWASA’s jurisdiction. The Ministry of Local Government had held a coordination meeting on July, 2017 with the concerned officials of stakeholder government agencies. In that meeting, authorities concerned decided that the waterlogging problem will be resolved by an integrated plan and the two city corporations will take the lead to implement it. The integrated plan is yet to see the light of the day.

What do the officials say?

DNCC panel mayor Osman Goni told the Dhaka Tribune: “We are doing our best to resolve the waterlogging problem in Dhaka. But an integrated plan is necessary to tackle the waterlogging issue. “The DNCC gets no assistance from the Dhaka Wasa on this issue. During the coordination meeting Wasa promised to clean up canals and box culverts, for allowing the rain water to flow properly. But the move is yet to be carried out.” Meanwhile, DSCC mayor Sayeed Khokon had termed the DWASA is a failed organisation on several occasions. “The people of Dhaka suffer waterlogging due to the negligence of the DWASA,” Sayeed Khokon said at one point. Responding to a query, Dhaka WASA Managing Director Engineer, Taksim A Khan said: “We recommended that drainage system be handed over to the city corporations. But the process is not making any headway. “However, we are already coordinating with other agencies to resolve the issue. There is no waterlogging in Dhaka, the water is just clogged for a short time. Following rain, the water drains after a very short time.” He also added that following completion of the drainage expansion projects, the water will drain out even more quickly.

‘Canals should be cleaned on a regular basis’

The existence of most canals in Dhaka is at risk because of illegal encroachment and lack of maintenance. Project Coordinator of Social and Economic Enhancement Programme (SEEP), Shyfun Naher spoke with the Dhaka Tribune about this important issue. [caption id="attachment_263191" align="alignleft" width="300"] Shyfun Naher[/caption] She pointed out that the authorities concerned should reclaim illegally occupied canals throughout Dhaka and reclaimed canals must be maintaind on a regular basis. “The canals should be properly maintained in all seasons, and not just during the rainy season,” she added. She continued: “The city corporations have a fund to clean the canals on a regular basis, but they only do it once or twice per year. Most of the times they (city corporations) fail to complete their clean up task before the monsoon season. “If the city corporations and Wasa build a well-planned drainage network in collaboration with other agencies concerned for ensuring proper maintenance in the drainage outlets and clean them up on a regular basis, waterlogging could be reduced significantly.” She further commented that waterlogging creates a multitude of problems for the city dwellers, such as health hazards created by polluted water from overflowing storm drains. “Secondly, we always see that digging on the city streets never gets completed before monsoon, partly due to lack of cooperation among the agencies concerned. As a result, people not only suffer from huge waterlogging crisis, but it also creates immense of traffic jam in the capital,” she said.