Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Atiqul Islam has expressed his interest in managing the capital's lakes too, after taking charge of all canals from Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA) in December last year.
"Just like the canals, give the city's lakes over to us. We will make sure that clear water flows through these lakes, and they are connected with each other," Mayor Atiq said on Sunday while addressing a workshop titled "Valentine's Day lasts only a day, but love the city every day."
Presiding over the event, organised by the Dhaka North and centered on waste management, the mayor added, "Give us the lakes in Baridhara, Gulshan, Uttara and Hatirjheel areas. We will increase the level of oxygen in their waters and fish will be farmed there."
Atiq also chastised those who installed pipes to release sewage in the lakes, saying, "A flat in Gulshan or Baridhara costs around Tk20-30 crore. Despite living in such places, some inconsiderate people engaged in such a malpractice without any consideration."
At the workshop, Dhaka North discussed issues such as managing the treatment of sewage, and rainwater drainage systems with different stakeholders including planners, engineers, architects, the Department of Environment, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), city corporations and NGOs.
Addressing the programme as chief guest, Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives (LGRD) Minister Md Tajul Islam said, "We have started working on solving the issues regarding management and disposal of sewage, fecal sludge, solid and liquid waste.
"Collection and management is only half the task, because we have to properly treat and dispose of the waste too. I do not want to play any blame games and I do not think it is WASA's fault."
He continued, "We are focusing on how to improve the situation with a plan. The stakeholders must sit together and set the scale of sewage management and rainwater drainage systems while considering the current and future population of Dhaka."
Md Mujibur Rahman, former professor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) presented a research paper on the current sanitation system in the capital and outlined a plan for the future.
Mujibur said, "There are around 16 million people in Dhaka, but only 2 million are under the coverage of the sewage system. The rest are living under the on-site system, where the sewage is dumped without treatment at all.
"Sewage waste from 71% of the homes and residences are going straight to drains and lakes, which in turn is allowing untreated sewage to flow into rivers. There are instances that sewage is being collected from septic tanks through vacuum trucks and then being dumped in the nearby drains directly."
Prof Mujibur Rahman's short-term plan till 2023 for the sector mentions the need for a concerted effort from Dhaka north and south city corporations, Rajuk, National Housing Authority, local government ministry, developers, NGOs, civil societies and academia.
There is no place in Dhaka where waste collected from cleaning out a septic tank can be stored and processed.
Addressing this matter, Dhaka WASA Managing Director Taqsem A Khan said, "The construction of Dasherkandi Sewage Treatment Plant will be complete in the next one and half years. This will help process the waste collected from septic tanks.
"Five plants will be built by 2027 to provide Dhaka with 100% sewage treatment network coverage."
Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) joint Secretary Iqbal Habib, Institute of Planners President Prof Akter Mahmud, General Secretary Adil Mahmud Khan, architect Mubasshar Hussein, Department of Environment Director General AKM Rafiqul Islam and WaterAid Bangladesh Country Director Hasin Jahan spoke on the occasion among many others.
The speakers emphasised on preparing an effective action plan, and advised the authorities to move forward after distributing appropriate responsibilities to different government agencies.