The responsibility of draining rainwater and solving waterlogging in Dhaka has finally been passed on to the Dhaka city corporations from the Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa).
The onus now is on Dhaka North and South city corporations to handle 26 canals in the capital, according to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Dhaka Wasa and the city corporations at InterContinental Dhaka on Thursday.
The city corporations have been entrusted with the responsibility of cleaning the canals, waste management, canal recovery, construction of walkways and others.
Experts and city corporation authorities have long been claiming that these 26 canals have become useless as most of their parts are filled with wastage, while some parts have been occupied by influential people, resulting in waterlogging.
Besides, there was a long-running "blame game" between the city corporations and Wasa about the responsibility of waterlogging in the city.
Last July, Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Mayor Fazle Nur Taposh questioned the sincerity of the authorities concerned to resolve the long-standing waterlogging problem.
Besides, both city mayors had raised the issue several times and urban planners and experts had also placed emphasis on handing over the charge of the drainage system to the city corporations.
Finally, city corporations have been given the charge of the canals to address the waterlogging problem in Dhaka under the LGRD ministry initiative.
Appreciating the decision, Dr AKM Saiful Islam, professor at the Institute of Water and Flood Management at Buet, told The Business Standard, "Rainwater cannot be drained out quickly as most city canals have been encroached and filled up."
Rainwater flows have drastically been reduced with canals having filled with wastage in the absence of effective waste management. The crisis is exacerbated by a lack of effective coordination among multiple agencies involved in drainage management, he added.
Earlier, some responsibility of drainage system management to remove rainwater was also on the city corporations. But there was a coordination gap between Wasa and the city corporations. It will now be a challenge for the city corporation authorities to solve the waterlogging problem as the whole charge is now on them," he added.
It is essential to determine the boundaries of natural canals and marshy lands, and protect them. Water can be drained through the canals instead of box culverts, he also said.
The Wasa Drainage Master Plan-2015 mentions about 47 canals. The Centre for Environmental and Geographical Information Services said 26 of those canals could still be revived.
As per the Water Supply and Sewerage Authority Act-1996, Wasa had been maintaining 26 canals (84.5km long), 385km stormwater drain, and 10 box culverts (around 10km) since 1988.
On the other hand, two city corporations maintain and manage 2,200km pipe drains and surface drains.
LGRD Minister Md Tajul Islam at the MoU signing event, said, "Before 1988, the then Dhaka Municipal Corporation used to supervise the canals in Dhaka. But the exact process of how the canals went to Wasa could not be known. That is why there was incoordination in managing the canals."
"The city corporations have now taken charge of 26 canals from Wasa and there will be no more waterlogging in the city," the minister added.
Crash programme to clean canals, box culverts from Saturday
DSCC Mayor Barrister Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh at the MoU signing event announced that a crash programme will start from next Saturday to clear three canals and two box culverts in the capital from waste.
Taposh, said, "We will demarcate these canals as well as preserve, maintain, and create a beautiful environment for those places after evicting all illegal occupants."
"We have taken up a big task of removing waste from Jirani canal, Manda canal and Shyampur canal and Panthapath box culvert and Segunbagicha box culvert."
They have set a target to complete the removal of waste from these three canals and two box culverts by next March, he added.
Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Md Atiqul Islam, "Earlier, rainwater on streets could easily go down to canals when it rained. But now, even a few hours after rain, water does not come down from roads."
All the canals under DNCC have been cleared under their own initiative to solve the waterlogging problem, he added.
Helaluddin Ahmed, senior secretary to the Local Government Division, presided over the MoU signing programme while Taqsem A Khan, managing director of Dwasa was also present.
Speaking on the occasion, Taqsem said in 2012, Dhaka Wasa had written a letter to the LGRD ministry, stating that the drainage system management's responsibility should be handed over to the city corporation authorities.
The initiative gained momentum after Tajul Islam took charge as the local government minister. This led to today's MoU signing ceremony, he added.
Meanwhile, following the MoU, Dhaka Wasa's manpower, equipment, and technical know-how will go to the two city corporations.