Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister Md Tajul Islam on Wednesday visited at least six pumps of Dhaka Wasa after a high-level meeting on waterlogging in the capital.
During the meeting, Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Mayor Barrister Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh challenged the sincerity of Water Development Board (WDB) and Dhaka Wasa to resolve the waterlogging issue. Then, he took the minister and visited the Wasa pumps under Dhaka South.
During the visit to the Wasa-run pumps, the minister expressed disappointment. Tajul Islam said he did not find adequate solutions to waterlogging which Wasa and BWD during the meeting claimed to be in place.
Torrential rain that continued for a couple of hours on Sunday night submerged Dhaka, disrupting communications amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The situation did not improve even on Tuesday as many parts of the capital including Mirpur-10 intersection, Sewrapara, Kazipara, Taltala, Agargaon crossing, Bijoy Sarani crossing, Kalabagan, Mohammadpur, Shantinagar, Mowchak crossing and Kakrail remained submerged.
Against such a backdrop, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development organised a meeting on activities of the utility providers and to assess plans to resolve the waterlogging issue. High-level government officials and two Dhaka city mayors were present at the meeting.
During the meeting, Minister Tajul Islam vented anger on development project delay while DSCC Mayor Taposh blamed Dhaka Wasa and Water Development Board for poor drainage systems.
However, Dhaka Wasa claimed that it was doing its best to channel rainwater out.
Engr Shahid Uddin, director (Technical) of Dhaka Wasa, said, "We have no irregularities. Our pump is running round the clock to channel out the water. But the swelled rivers are slowing down the pumping out mechanism."
Taposh then challenged the Wasa report and invited the minister for a filed visit.
Following Taposh's invitation, Local Government Minister Tajul visited at least six Dhaka Wasa-run pumps in Dhaka South.
During the visit, the minister expressed dissatisfaction over shabby pump houses. The minister also found the drainage lines clogged with solid waste. Tajul also expressed concern over poor maintenance of the city canals.
While replying to a query about canal maintenance, the minister said if any organisation comes forward to keep the canals flowing, the ministry would hand over the charge to them relieving Wasa.
DSCC mayor during the meeting also raised the handover issue. Citing the Local Government (City Corporation) Act-2009, he said the corporation is responsible for facilitating water discharge, maintenance and conservation of wetlands under its area.
"But, Dhaka Wasa and Water Development Board neither hand over the charge to the city corporations nor do the maintenance and cleaning properly," Taposh said.
The city once had around 58 canals which are now almost dead due to encroachment or dumping of waste, according to the Dhaka District Administration.
In 2019, the government's water system development agency Centre for Environmental and Geographical Information Services (CEGIS) said that 26 canals of the 58 canals could still be revived.
CEGIS recommended connecting the 26 canals with four rivers surrounding the Dhaka city – Buriganga, Balu, Turag, and Sitalakshya – to ease the city's waterlogging.
The monsoon in 2017 witnessed the worst waterlogging in Dhaka. And the scenario repeated in the following monsoons.
Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, the then local government, rural development and cooperatives minister, in a meeting took key decisions for drainage system improvement.
At a separate meeting in the same year at DNCC, attended by Mosharraf and other ministers concerned, the two mayors and the chief of 26 government agencies, also took a number of decisions including vesting drainage management responsibilities on the city corporations.
In 2018, Dhaka Wasa undertook a Tk550 crore project for canal development to resolve the capital's water-logging problem. The project has not seen headway though the project tenure will expire in June 2021.