Water-logging conditions in the port city of Chattogram will remain the same as last year in the coming monsoon – and during high tide – due to the slow pace of work on the project to end water-logging in the city.
Although a project worth Tk5,616.49 crore was undertaken in 2018 to solve the long-standing problem of water-logging, 80 percent of the work is yet to be completed. The Covid-19 shutdown and other obstacles have been blamed for the slowed pace of work.
Experts fear that suffering will double due to the slowdown.
Around 5,000 businesses in Khatunganj – the country's largest wholesale market for goods – will be submerged in rain and tidal water as it is in a low-lying area. Traders have started calculating losses from now on.
Khatunganj, Chaktai, Ashadganj are inundated by water – due to tidal surges from the Karnafuli River through Chaktai Canal and moderate rains – every year. Goods worth hundreds of crores of taka at businesses and warehouses in these areas go to waste.
According to experts, the water – caused by the tides in the Bay of Bengal and rains – create water-logging in Chattogram. Although there are 57 canals in the city, most of them have been occupied, so water cannot flow through the canals unhindered.
Additionally, as there is no sluice gate at the mouth of the canal, it is impossible to prevent the entry of tidal water from the sea.
Khatunganj Trade and Industries Association general secretary Syed Chagir Ahmed said government agencies do not pay attention even though traders lose hundreds of crores of taka with every monsoon.
The Chittagong Development Authority (CDA), the project implementing agency, has acknowledged that as it has not completed the work as targeted, there is a possibility of water-logging in Chattogram again.
When contacted, CDA chief engineer Kazi Hassan bin Shams told The Business Standard the work did not go as expected because of various obstacles – including land acquisition, the clearing of occupied canals, and low financial allocations by the government this year.
"We submitted a proposal for an allocation of Tk1,200 crore, but we have received Tk250 crore. So it is not possible to increase the speed of our work," he said.
Meanwhile, CDA has applied for cost escalations and time extensions on the project. In the application, it sought two more years for project implementation and the cost has been increased to Tk 11,000 crore from Tk 5,616 crore.
CDA is implementing the project with the help of 34 Engineering Corps of the Bangladesh Army.
Bangladesh Army Project Director Lieutenant Colonel Md Shah Ali told The Business Standard that some workers of the project left home after the Covid-19 shutdown. So, the target set for the completion of work before the rains was delayed.
"Later, we started recruiting workers from other parts to prioritise the project," he added.
He added that they wanted to complete the base casting work of five under-construction sluice gates before the monsoon to prevent tidal waters from entering. However, that is not happening because of Covid-19. However, the piling of the sluice gates has been completed.
According to the detailed design of the project, 64 bridges and culverts will be constructed on these canals. Around 3,100 illegal installations have been cleared from 36 canals.
Work on 38 bridges and culverts is underway. Drains along the canal are being constructed with 22 box culverts on them. Additionally, the construction of 45 culverts has been completed on the road to be constructed along the canal.
Although the construction of a sluice gate at the mouth of the canal has begun to end water-logging, the work is still in its early stages. According to the development project proposal (DPP), the project includes the construction of 100 kilometres of new drains, 176 kilometres of retaining walls plus 85 kilometres of roads and different types of infrastructure – including 42 silt traps. Further, 36 canals will be dug.
Although the government has allocated thousands of crores to end water-logging, only 20 percent of work of this project is complete. "This is deplorable," said Engineer Delwar Hossain Majumder, former president of the Institution of Engineers Bangladesh Chattogram.