Ayub Ali from Chattogram: Though a number of initiatives have been taken over the years to address Chittagong city’s waterlogging problem, many of those have apparently gone down the drain due to a lack of coordinated efforts by the government bodies concerned.
Town planners and experts made the observation while approached by Daily Industry in the wake of recent waterlogging crisis caused by the recent incessant downpour in the port city.
Following the rainfall, many low-lying areas in the city went under knee-to-waist-deep water, causing immense sufferings to the city dwellers.
Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) spent about Tk 292.89 crore since 2003-04 fiscal to address the problem, CCC sources said.
In this regard, town planner Subhash Barua said, “If money is spent in an unplanned way, it will bring no results.” There is no “integrated action plan” to mitigate the problem, he commented.
In addition, water bodies and open spaces are shrinking due to an “unplanned development”; as a result, rain water cannot recede, causing waterlogging, he said.
Subhash also underscored the need for dredging drains, canals, the Karnaphuli river on a regular basis. The city’s canals and drains have to be recovered from the clutches of the grabbers, he added.
Engr Delwar Majumder, former chairman of the Institution of Engineers Bangladesh, Chittagong Centre, said Chittagong city’s waterlogging problem is multi-dimensional. “It is not possible on part of CCC alone to address the problem,” he opined.
To him, in Chittagong, tidal water adds to rain water. Moreover, an onrush of water from upstream carries sand, which contributes to filling up the drains and canals.
He said silt trap could be set up to hold back sand. To address waterlogging, tidal regulators and water retention points could be installed, he opined.
Moreover, utility services, including gas, water and land lines, running through drains, have to be removed, which requires coordination from different concerned bodies, he said.
Taking into consideration the multi-dimensional nature of the problem, Engr Delwar said an “integrated approach” involving other concerned government bodies is needed under the leadership of the CCC mayor.
Contacted, CCC Chief Engineer said waterlogging is a longstanding issue, and they are trying their best to mitigate the city’s waterlogging.
Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), sources said a project styled “Flood control, drainage improvement and water-logging mitigation of Chittagong city”, involving about Tk 3,165.18 crore, awaits government approval.
Waterlogging problem will significantly be checked if the proposed project, which is schedule to be concluded in June 2021, is implemented, he said.
The Chattogram Development Authority has been filling up vast swaths of low-lying land, designated as water reservoirs, in the name of building residential areas.
The state-run agency is building 4,533 plots at its Ananya Abasik area in Kuwaish and Panchlaish. In the 1995 Master Plan, these areas are earmarked as farmland and wetland.
Filling up of farmland and wetland or changing their nature by any means is illegal.
Moreover, the housing project, launched in 2011, does not have the mandatory clearance from the environment ministry, officials said.
In a letter in 2018, the environment department ordered the CDA to halt the project, but the city development authority paid no heed to the call.
Ironically, however, the CDA is implementing a separate Tk 5,616 crore project to solve the port city’s waterlogging problem that affects millions. Since the project’s approval in 2017, the CDA has been able to do only 17 percent work.
Town planners and locals say the housing projects are intensifying the problem. With thousands of residential plots occupying some 778 acres of water retention area, localities that were once known as flood-free zone now quickly go under rainwater.
Oxygen Mor area is the worst affected. After last week’s rain, the busy intersection remained waterlogged for at least five days. Locals said they never saw this area go under water.
Sholoshohor Gate-2, Muradpur, Probortok and Chwakbazar are among the main city thoroughfares that get waterlogged even after a light rain. Until four to five years ago, rain water would recede in couple of hours. Now, it takes up to 10 hours.
In the first phase of the housing schemes, the CDA completed the work of 1,733 plots last year and is now building another 2,800 plots in the second phase.
The city development authority is implementing a separate housing scheme, Kolpolok Abasik, in Bakolia, also a water reservoir.
Additionally, the CDA has approved construction of hundreds of buildings on wetland, including Bogar Beel, Chandrima Abasik, Gaochiya Abasik, over the last few years.
Abul Kalam, a resident of Kuwaish, said they never had waterlogging problem in their neighbourhood in the past.
“The waterlogging problem began after the CDA completed its first phase of the Ananya Abasik project. It’s sad that the CDA is aggravating the waterlogging problem while it’s implementing a project to solve it,” he said, clearly frustrated.
Asik Imran, an eminent town planner and also board member of the CDA, told Daily Industry that the CDA did not do any feasibility and other relevant studies before taking up the housing projects.
“So these residential areas are intensifying the waterlogging problem in nearby areas. Such whimsical actions are essentially taking the city on the verge of destruction. The CDA can’t avoid its responsibility,” he said.
Excavation of 16 out of the 36 canals has been completed while only five kilometres of retaining wall have been built out of 176 kilometres. That is the only progress.
The project also include building of 12 sluice gates, renovating 500 drains, constructing five water reservoirs, 42 silt trap and 15 feet-wide roads on both side of the 36 canals. The project will also construct 48 bridges, six culverts and ten kilometres of drains.
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