The monsoon has been bringing in its wake the curse of waterlogging and indescribable sufferings for the people of the port city for the last two decades. A number of city roads and low-lying areas go under knee- to waist-deep water even after a short spell of rain.
Six state organisations – Chattogram City Corporation (CCC), Chattogram Development Authority (CDA), Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa), Water Development Board (WDB), Bangladesh Railway, and Chattogram Port Authority – have their own master plans and operate independently, with no coordination among them.
This lack of coordination is the primary reason cited for the persistent waterlogging crisis in the port city, experts say.
Four of the organisations – the CCC, the CDA, Wasa, and the WDB – are implementing five different projects that are linked to solving the waterlogging issue. Approximately Tk1.2 lakh crore worth of development work has been carried out in the city over the last 10 years, including four projects totalling Tk14,263 crore aimed at addressing waterlogging. But the problems persist and have even worsened.
The Business Standard spoke to urban planning expert Muhammad Rashidul Hasan, assistant professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the Chattogram University of Engineering and Technology, who has identified what went wrong with the projects and why waterlogging is not being solved in the city. Here are his findings.
Projects defy drainage master plan
The CDA formulated a drainage master plan in 1995 which specified the primary, secondary, and tertiary drainage system in the city. The plan recommended excavating four new canals to drain out the water of the growing city. Of these, construction on one canal started in 2014 but is yet to be finished. The mega projects taken in defiance of the master plan that commenced in 2018 mainly emphasised the primary drains (canals) in the city, but the secondary and tertiary drains have remained the same old and dilapidated ones. As a result, rainwater fails to reach the primary canals through narrow and dilapidated internal drains, causing waterlogging.
Projects taken in haste
When the government asked for the alleviation of waterlogging on a priority basis, the CDA took up the project in haste without conducting feasibility studies. It did not even consult stakeholders like CCC, Wasa, and leaders of civil society. As a result, the projects do not seem to be effective ones regarding a solution to the problems.
Canals without silt traps
Chattogram is a hilly city, and every day unscrupulous people are slicing away hills. When it rains, the sandy soil from the hills thus undermined gets washed away and falls into canals, filling them up and blocking the water flow, which is another reason for waterlogging in the city. The CDA projects do not include construction of silt traps, which is a major weakness.
Raising road level
In recent days, many roads have been repaired by raising their levels in different areas of the city, a factor behind the houses and shops on both sides of the roads slipping below the level of the roads. When it rains, the water flows down to the low-lying areas and causes waterlogging.
70% water bodies filled up
Once there were a huge number of water bodies like ponds in the city that used to retain rainwater. In the last 40 years, almost 70% of the water bodies have been filled up to construct buildings, leaving rainwater nowhere to go and so causing waterlogging.
Using up open space for housing projects
A megacity like Chattogram, where more than 70 lakh people live, needs to have at least 25% of open spaces to retain rainwater and then recharge the ground. But the CDA has used up almost all the open space for implementing housing projects to accommodate the growing population of the city. For example, rainwater from Chandgaon and Bahadderhat used to flow down to low-lying lands where the CDA decreed a housing project named Ananya Abashik. With the housing coming up, the said areas are now the worst victims of waterlogging. The Bakalia area faced a similar fate after the construction of Kolpolok Abashik.
Rising sea level and inoperative sluice-gates
The projects implemented by the CDA have provisioned 41 sluice-gates to protect the city from the climate change-driven rising sea level. As the construction of the sluice-gates is yet to be finished, the rainwater cannot be pumped out in a timely manner, which is another reason for the deepening waterlogging crisis. Though the government has enacted a law to protect water bodies, the reluctance of government agencies is responsible for the disappearance of the most valuable natural water bodies of the city.
Poor waste management system
City dwellers produce 3,000 tonnes of solid waste every day. According to CCC, it can remove only 2,000 tonnes of waste on a daily basis. The remaining 1,000 tonnes of waste are thrown into the drains and canals, which is another cause of waterlogging.