Dhaka awaits worse waterlogging woes: Experts

‘10 vigilance teams formed for quick response to water stagnation’

05 May 2018, 10:14

NTV Online
File: Photo

Dhaka: Though the government and authorities concerned assured the city dwellers of facing less waterlogging this season, the recent pre-monsoon showers have exposed that there is still much work needs to be done to keep commuters free from rainwater miseries. 
Urban experts fear that things will get worse in case of heavy rains during June and July with many areas getting swamped with rainwater like previous years due to poor drainage system and unplanned city development works, reports the UNB.
They think the restoration of the natural drainage network through reclaiming 43 canals from grabbers alongside proper maintenance of the existing drains and their further upgradation with proper plans are necessary to get rid of the capital’s perennial waterlogging problem.
As the city dwellers went through immense sufferings over the last few days, the Local Government Ministry formed 10 vigilance teams comprising high officials of the ministry for quick response to waterlogging in the two cities of the capital.
The ministry also directed the two city authorities and Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Dwasa) to take steps so that rainwater does not remain stagnant in any city area for more than three hours.
At different programmes early this year, Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain and Dhaka Wasa Managing Director Taqsem A Khan assured that the capital will experience lesser waterlogging this season.
Contacted, Khandker Mosharraf said the waterlogging problem could not be improved significantly in the capital despite their various steps as the drainage system here is very outdated. ‘We’re working to upgrade it.’
He said they have already formed a coordination committee involving Dhaka Wasa, authorities of the two cities, Dhaka Deputy Commissioner, Public Works and Water Resources Ministries, Water Development Board and all the departments concerned for quick removal of rainwater. Local Government Ministry additional secretary Mahbubur Rahman has been made the head of the committee.
Besides, the minister said, the 10 vigilance teams are there for quick response to waterlogging in any area of the two cities.
Local Government Ministry additional secretary Roksana Quader said the coordination committee formed to resolve the waterlogging problem has already held several meetings. ‘We hope we’ll be able to clear rainwater very quickly this time.’
She said the Finance Ministry has already given Wasa Tk 20 crore for taking steps to control waterlogging. ‘Wasa will also be given Tk 20 crore further by June and July in this regard.’
Besides, Roksana said, they have taken various short- mid- and long-term projects to eliminate the waterlogging problem from the city. 
A high official at the ministry, wishing anonymity, said they have taken measures for updating the laws and rules of Wasa and two city corporations, and specify their responsibilities to resolve waterlogging and some other city problems in a coordinated way.
He said they have also taken projects to clean up the clogged drains and keep those functional.  
Wasa Managing Director Taqsem Khan said there will be no waterlogging this season unless there are heavy downpours.  
‘The ministry has asked us to remove rainwater by three hours, but we’ll do it before that. We’ve taken preparations to pump out water in case of serious water stagnation.’
Dhaka South City Corporation Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Khan Mohammad Bilal said Dhaka Wasa is implementing a project to free 26 canals of the two cities from grabbers. ‘There’ll a marked improvement if the project is properly implemented.’  
Dhaka North City Corporation Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mohammad Mesbaul Islam said they have long been implementing various projects for improving the drainage system. ‘We’ve implemented some projects while works on some others are still going on. There’ll be no water stagnation once we can complete all the projects.’
Contacted, Prof Sarwar Jahan of Buet’s Urban and Regional Planning (URP) department said rainwater flow is being obstructed due to unplanned urbanisation, construction of roads and houses and other structures occupying canals and water bodies.
He said many areas of the two Dhaka city corporations are still not there under drainage network for lack of canals while the drains and storm-sewerage lines remain clogged with wastes for not cleaning up those regularly, causing waterlogging.
Urban expert and ex-chairman of University Grant Commission Prof Nazrul Islam said the city drainage system cannot work properly for lack of maintenance and monitoring. ‘The construction materials like cement, clinker, bricks and sand are also blocking the drains, affecting their capacity to flush out rainwater.’  
He said the city corporations fail to ensure a proper waste management while people litter here and there for lack of awareness. ‘That’s why the existing drainage system loses its effectiveness choked by wastes.’
Prof Islam said a single agency should be entrusted with the responsibility for maintaining the city’s drainage system to ensure its better management.
According to a study jointly conducted by Buet and BRAC University in 2015, potential damages from Dhaka’s water-logging is likely to be between Tk110 billion and Tk139 billion by 2050 if the government fails to construct flood-resistant infrastructure and upgrade the existing ones.