Over the entire length of the 1.5km Hazi Badsha Miah Road at Matuail in the Demra area, Masud Rana's small shop was the only one open with groceries and snack items.
There were other shops on both sides of the cement concrete (CC) road, but almost all of them were closed, even though it was a weekday. It was drizzling that day in the second week of August. Perhaps the shop-owners voluntarily took a day off to be with their family and friends at home? Not at all.
The unfortunate reality was that they couldn't do their business comfortably because most of the Hazi Badsha Miah Road was under stagnant sewage water.
"The water on the road you are seeing is not because of the rain. All the surrounding multi-storey buildings release sewage water into the road. As there is no roadside drain, the released water gets stuck. This waterlogging is not merely a monsoon-time problem," said Masud Rana, the shopkeeper.
Both sides of the Matuail roads, including Hazi Badsha Miah Road, Majar Road and Ishakha Road, bear the typical signs of an emerging town with industrial sheds and high-rise residential buildings. Ironically, the new town has been developed without a functional drainage system, resulting in prolonged waterlogging on the roads, even though there is no rainfall.
This particular area was declared a part of Dhaka South City Corporation in 2017. However, the local ward councillor, when enquired by The Business Standard about the situation, said the corporation could not develop the much-required drainage system because the roads were not under their control!
In 2016, the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) developed the 10ft-wide CC roads which had been narrow and low-lying earlier. On both sides, elevated foundations of multi-storey buildings stood high on the vast low-lying green fields.
Anticipating a bright future in an emerging township, Rana began selling groceries at the rented shop beside Hazi Badsha Miah Road five years ago with a Tk4 lakh investment. Construction and transport workers were his main customers at first, but he was waiting for the under-construction buildings to be completed and populated.
The buildings on both sides of the road are completed now and some more are under construction. "And there live around 5,000 people. But I am still struggling with a falling business because of the road. Why would a rich customer come to my shop wading in this stinky water?" Rana lamented, adding that he was now trapped in debt and his dull business had turned a burden for his family.
He named several multi-storey apartment buildings including Bukhari Tower, Ekota Tower, Green Tower and Ruposhi Polli Tower 4-5, that release sewage water into the road every day.
While we were talking to Rana, some battery-run rickshaw pullers, drenched in rain, arrived at the shop to have tea.
Finding a journalist to talk to, they said that no manual rickshaw remained in the area because pedalling the vehicle on the waterlogged and dilapidated road was deemed too difficult.
"You can't find a drain here. Where will the sewage water from the buildings run through? Remaining submerged most of the year, several potholes have developed at the road that was built only a couple of years ago," said rickshaw puller Rashid, a migrant from Gaibandha district.
Beside the road, another young man Al Amin opened a traditional restaurant three months ago, wishing the waterlogging problem would be solved soon. Amin was frustrated, pointing towards various places where sewage waters were spilling out into the road. He said, "The stinky water gets deposited in front of my shop. Customers presume that the food in my shop might be unhygienic and they don't come."
This particular road is a source of sorrow for local residents as well. Shefaly Begum, a tenant of a nearby apartment, shared how she faces problems finding transport while escorting her children to their school.
"Primarily, sewage management is the responsibility of the building owners. They do it by releasing the water into the road. Then, there is no authority to take due responsibility. It's very disgusting," she said.
The entire Matuail area lies in the 56.79 sq-km Dhaka-Narayanganj-Demra irrigation project area. The project - initiated in 1962 and completed in 1968 - was supposed to improve runoff retention as well as protect the floodplain of the three rivers: Balu, Sitalakshya, and Buriganga.
Ignoring the characteristics of the landscape, unplanned urbanisation started to grow in 1988. The conversion of flood plains into urban areas accelerated when a big portion of the area, including Matuail, was declared a part of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) in June 2017.
The previous year, RHD developed the local roads and there were only 10-inch diameter pipes beneath the roads at some points. "As both sides [of the raised concrete road] were low-lying fields, the pipes could pass water from one side to another. Now, buildings have been erected on both sides and no building owner has left an inch of land for drainage. The government has also not acquired land to develop the drainage network," said Harun-or-Rashid, a local resident and Awami League leader.
This newspaper reached out to the local ward councillor Shamsuddin Bhuiyan for his comment on the matter, but his response was less than helpful. "RHD has not yet handed over the road to the city corporation. That's why I cannot initiate a drainage development project here," he concluded.
Mohammad Ahad Ullah, Executive Engineer at RHD's Dhaka Division said he has no idea about the road and the handover issue.
With no one shouldering management responsibility of the road, some landowners this monsoon have taken it upon themselves to dig shallow troughs beside the roads so that rainwater can drain down to the still existing low-lying plots.
On 11 August, local resident Omar Faruque Chowdhury was seen overseeing such activities at the Hazi Badsha Miah Road.
"Several times we tried to attract the attention of the authorities but saw no remedy. Now we are doing this at our own cost because the problem becomes unbearable. Mosquitos bre ed in the stagnant water," Faruque said.