The civil society organization urged coordination and accountability instead of shifting blame
Dhaka WASA, the two city corporations, and all other concerned institutions, have failed to address waterlogging caused by a lack of coordination in drainage management, rainwater drainage, and waste management in Dhaka city.
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), the Bangladesh unit of the Berlin-based civil society organization dedicated to fighting corruption, made the above observations in a statement.
There is no scope for any particular organization to blame others for this failure.
TIB feels it is important to have the city corporations manage the crisis without imposing the liability of negligence on others, read the press release.
Chaos caused by absence of coordination
Several organizations (WASA, city corporations, and Water Development Board) are tasked with managing drainage in the city. That said, there is a culture of lack of coordination, unhealthy competition, and shifting blame, which compounds the waterlogging problem.
TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said: “According to the law, WASA is responsible for the construction and maintenance of the main drain lines in Dhaka city, while the city corporations are responsible for the branch lines.
“Of the total drainage lines in Dhaka city, 385 kms are under Dhaka WASA, and some 2,500 kms under jurisdiction of the city corporations.
“Apart from this, WASA is also responsible for the maintenance of 26 canals with a length of 74 kms and 10 kms of box culverts.”
In this mix of legal jurisdictions, the organizations want to avoid their responsibilities by imposing on each other, the liability of resolving the waterlogging caused by the monsoon, said Iftekharuzzaman.
And so, the people suffer year after year as soon as it starts raining, he said.
“Therefore, necessary amendments to the law should be made immediately, and the responsibility of complete drainage management and the maintenance of sewerage, canal, and culvert, should be given to a single organization,” Iftekharuzzaman added.
“In this case, the two city corporations should be given this responsibility as civic organizations, and they should be the ones responsible for monitoring the work that is under the jurisdiction of WASA,” he continued.
Commenting on WASA’s failure in fulfilling its responsibilities in the past, the TIB executive director said: “A Dhaka WASA report claims that 20 out of 26 canals under their control are fully flowing. It also says the Katasur canal is flowing.
“However, TIB's research shows that the canal’s flow is not active. Various solid or heavy wastes have accumulated on the surface of drains and at the mouth of the canal, which is also shown in the research report along with pictures.
“Moreover, information published in the media also shows that in the last fiscal year (2019-20), at least 10 of the 26 canals under Dhaka WASA were not actually re-excavated and cleaned.”
Dr Iftekharuzzaman said further: “The lack of regular supervision in the development and maintenance of canals and drainage systems under WASA is also noticeable. Officials of the concerned department are supposed to inspect the canals and drains at least twice a month but that is not done.
“As a result, canals are filled in various ways including the occupation of canals and construction of illegal structures on them. So there is no scope to deny WASA’s failure.
“Nevertheless, the city corporation cannot avoid responsibility for the failure of drainage mismanagement and waste disposal by placing all the blame on WASA alone either.”
It is also questionable whether the 2,500 kms of drains under the jurisdiction of the city corporations are waste-free or operational, he added.
According to existing law, the city corporations are supposed to coordinate with WASA in any changes or modifications related to drainage, but they do not do this in practice when constructing drains or rain-water drainage troughs.
Furthermore, if any of WASA’s drains are damaged as a result of development work by the city corporations, they do not inform WASA about it. As a result, people cannot enjoy the full benefits of the work done by any organization.
The 'Operational/Action Committee to Reduce Waterlogging in Dhaka Metropolis' was formed by the Local Government Division in May 2018 to address the problem of waterlogging in the city.
The committee’s duty is to review the existing canals and drains for illegal occupation, cleaning, excavation, and re-excavation. But due to lack of coordination between the concerned institutions, it was not possible to implement those goals.
To break this cycle of coordination, TIB feels the overall responsibility for elimination of waterlogging in Dhaka metro should be entrusted to a single organization, following a specific strategy formulated by experts in the field.