Taqsem A Khan, managing director and chief executive officer of Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa), has acknowledged that the responsibility of storm water drainage system had wrongly been vested in the agency.
In an exchange of views organised on the occasion of the handing over of responsibility to the two city corporations on Monday, he said that this time the responsibility has been given to the "right agencies".
"Thirty-two years ago, through a 'wrong' circular the responsibility was given to the Wasa, and that mistake has now been corrected."
Taqsem A Khan said on 6 December 1988, the government had transferred the responsibility from the Department of Public Health Engineering to Wasa instead of to the city corporation.
"At the time, the responsibility should have been handed over to the city corporation," he said.
Besides Wasa, seven agencies – including the city authorities, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), Water Development Board – were involved in this work.
"It could not be carried out properly as many organisations were involved in one work. Besides, Wasa did not have any separate budget for canals and storm water management," said the Wasa CEO.
Describing the marketing of Dhaka's potable water and sewerage management as Wasa's "core work", he said the same is happening in Chattogram, Khulna and other cities.
He said management of the canals in Dhaka has been handed over to the city corporations.
"Now the responsibility of drainage of rainwater is also going to them. This will reduce the extra pressure on Wasa. Properly performing two main responsibilities – pure water supply and sewerage management – will thus be easier."
Stating that Wasa will supply pure water to Dhaka city dwellers in 145 clusters, "Earlier, water was supplied through a network, which would have caused problems somewhere in the long lines and so the supply of pure water would be disrupted."
Saying that the problem will be solved, he said the work of these clusters started in 2012 and will be completed in 2023.
"The people of Dhaka will then get 100% drinking water through Wasa lines. This zone-based approach will facilitate water management."
Besides, Wasa is setting up five sewage treatment plants to improve sewerage management in Dhaka, through which a sewerage network will be created in the entire city.
Although there are plans to commission these plants by 2030, Wasa expects the work to be completed by 2027.
Wasa recently handed over responsibility for the management of the canals of Dhaka to the two city corporations.
Representatives of civil society have been complaining that the canals that have been under Wasa for a long time have gradually become dead and useless.
Engineer Taqsem A Khan acknowledged this reality when the topic came up in the question and answer session of the programme.
He said that despite the multiple uses of canals, Wasa's responsibility was only to divert water through using the water bodies. "As a result, the canals could not be maintained properly."
"We only removed solid waste from the canals. But a canal can be a beautiful water body. The canal can be a waterway, and walkways can be built on both sides of the canal. We had no right to do any of this. Due to these reasons, the canals could not be fully maintained," said the Wasa CEO.
Beginning in 2009, Wasa started thinking of returning this "extra" responsibility. It has finally succeeded eight years after taking the active initiative in 2012.