Only 50 percent of the much-hyped mega project to address the perennial waterlogging issues in Chattogram was completed when its implementation period ended on June 30 this year.
City residents said the project sparked hope that they were getting rid of waterlogging. But the delay in its implementation means that moderate and heavy rain may still inundate the city again and cause suffering for local people.
Around half of the city area goes under water during the rainy season, and its southern part gets inundated during high tide even without rain.
Chattogram Development Authority (CDA), which is implementing the project titled "Canal Re-excavation, Expansion, Renovation and Development to Ease Waterlogging in Chittagong City", said it will take more time to finish it.
Ahmed Moinuddin, project director of CDA, told The Business Standard, "We have sent proposals to the ministry to extend the project by two more years to complete it by February 2022."
"However, the ministry has already extended the tenure for all the ongoing projects due to the pandemic. Our application is being evaluated by the ministry now," he said.
Morshed Alam, a resident of Bakalia said, "The CDA should complete the project considering the people's suffering. Time extension has become a common practice in Bangladesh. We want to get rid of waterlogging."
Lt Col Mohammad Shah Ali, project director from the Bangladesh Army Engineering Crops, told The Business Standard that the delay in land acquisition for the project is a major cause of delay in completing it.
He said, "After the CDA hands over the land to us, only one year will be needed to complete the whole project. Land is needed to construct silt traps, retaining walls and roads on canal banks," said Lt Col Mohammad Shah Ali.
Ahmed Moinuddin said they are working to acquire land. Under the project, 107 acres of land will be acquired.
On August 09, 2017 the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council approved the project worth Tk5,616 crore.
The CDA is implementing the project with the help of the Bangladesh Army Engineering Crops.
Sources at the CDA and the engineering crops said the city will not face as much waterlogging as it did earlier as 50 percent work of the project has been completed.
They have formed four separate emergency response teams to remove water in case of heavy rain in the city. They also kept all necessary material including wheel excavators and drum trucks ready.
Lt Col Mohammad Shah Ali said, "We have cleaned 240km of drains in all the 41 wards, identified 20 places responsible for creating waterlogging, and constructed 52.8km of new drain so that water recedes smoothly during heavy rainfall."
The project includes re-excavation of 36 canals within the city areas, and construction of 178km of retaining wall, but the authorities could not begin construction of the retaining walls yet at eight canals including—Badarkhal, Noakhal, Bakalia, Mugaltoli and Firingi Bazar Khal due to complications over land acquisition.
The project also includes the construction of five sluice gates and pump houses on the estuary, of five canals which are under construction now.
It further includes construction of 54 girder bridges, 34 of which will be completed by July 2020, re-excavation of all existing drains connected directly to canals over 302km, and installation of 880 electric poles.
Waste clogs drains and canals
Lack of awareness among the city dwellers about waste disposal is also responsible for waterlogging.
Lt Col Mohammad Shah Ali said, "We have cleaned the most important canal of the city named Chaktai Khal several times, but it gets filled up again and again."
He also said sometimes waste kept near the dustbins also goes into canals and obstructs the water receding process.
"Consulting with local ward councilors, we have cleaned 240km of small drains in the city, but those have been filled up again now as city dwellers throw waste in them, so awareness may help to solve the waterlogging problem," he added.
Chattogram – a city inhabited by over six million people – has 57 canals to drain out waste and rain water.