Thursday, May 30, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Will we ever be able to enjoy a rainy day?

Addressing the issue with urban flooding, its consequences, and what can be done about it

Update : 07 Feb 2024, 02:02 PM

“Experiencing the rain with a cup of coffee is wonderful, but the consequences hit hard when the clogged drainage systems flood the city allies. My enjoyment from the urban rain was reduced this morning, watching this flooded road of my house. I needed to go to the bank, but now, I have to find the alternatives from home. I cannot even go to the office.” 

The words of Farihin, an urban dweller residing in Mohakhali in Dhaka, perfectly captures the misery of most citizens when it comes to annual floods.

While the Padma Bridge, the Bangabandhu tunnel, and the metro rail promote the country's dream at large, the waterlogged roads following a monsoon rainfall show us our reality -- poor infrastructure management and disorganized urban planning. 

While our population is a factor, that does not explain the random construction, poor drainage systems, reduction of natural landscape, poor waste management, and an overall lack of public awareness, all of which are to be blamed for our woes with regard to flooding. 

Waterlogging imposes a significant burden on city dwellers, creating negative physical, social, economic, and environmental effects interfering with daily living as well as damaging infrastructures. Everything is impacted -- the transportation, electricity, and communication. 

Moreover, the contaminated flood water, mixed with pollutants, increases the risk of waterborne diseases for the citizens and hampers and reduces the overall quality of life. 

Dhaka has formulated policy and planning such as the Detailed Area Plan 2016–2035 and the Dhaka Structure Plan 2016–2035 to tackle the consequences of urbanization. This plan has incorporated environmental preservation and enhancement, proper management and regulation of different sectors, proper maintenance of infrastructure, etc, to combat the drawbacks of urbanization. 

However, the effectiveness and progression of the planning is questionable, standing on the seventh year after the structural plan -- the city still encounters urban flooding after monsoon rain in most parts. Several initiatives have been implemented through these seven years, yet, is this enough? Is it enough for Farihin to enjoy the rain and forget about the clogged roads with rain-sewer water? 

Additionally, this concerning state requires more intervention both from the government and private sector. As a rising developing country, Bangladesh will thrive on collaborative participation and initiatives -- it is what is needed to overcome the shortage of resources and establish a better quality of life for every citizen. It is clear that individual, collective, and multi-sectoral involvement will be key to ensure stress-free urbanization. 

If villages of Bangladesh dream of modern amenities and urbanization in near future, then we must think of incorporating proper planning to ensure safe roads in rainy seasons for the population. 

Improvement of drainage systems, sustainable urban planning with green and flood-resilient infrastructure, and early preparedness incorporating climate change adaptation, policy advocacy, and implementation are some of the ways to battle urban flooding. Incorporating flood-resilient roads and buildings, elevated structures, minimizing impervious surfaces, tree plantations alongside the roads, etc, can also decrease the sufferings of the hampered population due to flooding. 

Planning, with international and national collaboration, can strengthen urban resilience against water congestion. More research and attention is also required for identification, planning, and implementation of sustainable urbanization.

The monsoon rain brings with it a sense of purity and freshness, of calmness and a break from the stress of reality. Unfortunately, such feelings cease due to the consequences of urban flooding, turning our feelings into more of a nightmare. We must build towards that one rainy day when the pleasure of rain will not be accompanied by the horror of urban flooding. That one day when Farihin can enjoy that cup of coffee -- with emotions, perceptions, and without distractions.


Dr Md Shamim Hayder Talukder is Chief Executive Officer and Dr Maliha Khan Majlish is Senior Technical & Development Officer, Eminence, Associates for Social Development.

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