Countless death traps, in the forms of open manholes and uncovered sewerage lines, are scattered across Dhaka – a city of over 70 lakh people – where the negligence of authorities concerned are regularly causing minor accidents and resulting in fatalities in some cases.
Most victims who fall into open sewerage pipes choose to not report the incidents, brushing it off as a nuisance of living in the city. But not everyone is lucky to escape with just minor wounds.
Within the span of only one year, Dhaka has seen two children die after falling into uncovered drainage lines.
In December last year, three-and-a-half year-old Jihad died after falling into an abandoned 300-feet deep well in Shajahanpur, while five-year-old Nirob died earlier this month after falling inside an open manhole in Shyampur.
Each incident was followed with a flurry of empty promises from city administrators, utility services and politicians that appropriate measures would be taken to ensure that there is no such repeat of fatalities.
While there is no visible progress in implementation of those promises, Dhaka residents blame the lack of coordination among the agencies concerned for the death traps.
ABM Enamul Haque, chief executive officer for Dhaka North City Corporation, said looking into open manholes was not their responsibility, it was Dhaka Wasa’s.
Officials of Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (Wasa), meanwhile, told the Dhaka Tribune that manholes were regularly checked by them and the missing covers were always replaced.
According to sources at the Dhaka Wasa and both Dhaka city corporations, there are about 65,000 to 70,000 manholes in the city and around 5% of them remain open throughout the year.
“Some manholes remain open when there is work going on them, but we cover all the manholes after the task is finished,” said Dhaka Wasa Deputy Managing Director (operations and maintenance) SDM Quamrul Alam Chowdhury.
He added that Wasa regularly checks for open manholes and takes action if any complaint is filed.
But Rezaul Karim, the father of the deceased Nirob, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Manholes remain open across the country, including the one in front of my house where my only son fell down and died... Jihad had died before Nirob, but nothing has changed.”
In the past week, the Dhaka Tribune visited the city’s Mirpur, Tejgaon, Nakhalpara, Gulshan, Niketan, Shyampur, Shahjanpur, Mohammadpur, Jatrabari, and Rampura areas, and found that many of the manholes and sewerage lines did not have covers.
Locals in those areas said the uncovered sewerage lines have stayed open for months despite complaints.