Life becomes more difficult in cities, including capital Dhaka, due to water logging, particularly in the rainy season. Why? How to get rid of the perennial problem?

02IN RECENT years Dhaka City has been facing extensive water logging, especially, during the monsoon. Common problems that occur in the city are increase in water pollution, traffic congestion, air and noise pollution, solid waste disposal, black smoke etc. Inadequate drainage sections, conventional drainage system with low capacity and gravity, natural siltation, absence of inlets and outlets, indefinite drainage outlets, lack of proper maintenance of existing drainage system, and over and above disposal of solid waste into the drains and drainage paths are accounted for the prime causes of blockage in drainage system and water logging. In addition, seasonal tidal effect and the topography of the city are also causing water logging.
Water logging becomes a burden for the inhabitants of Dhaka City and is creating many adverse social, physical, economic and environmental impacts. The storm water becomes polluted as it mixes with solid waste, clinical waste, silt, contaminants, domestic wastes and other human activities that increase the water born diseases. The stagnant storm water leads to the creation of breeding sites for diseases vectors that becomes a hazard to health as well as being unsightly and foul smelling.
In order to remove the city’s water-logging problem effectively, its natural drainage system has to be restored. Only a well planned drainage system can solve the mega city’s water-logging problem. Sustainable development is one of the greatest challenges as the city is already besieged with many problems and the situation might be worse in case of any natural disaster. Hence, actions must be taken sooner rather than later.
Dr Mostafizur Rahaman
Researcher and development worker

01HARDLY has the monsoon begun, city dwellers are already suffering the consequences as rainwater leads to severe water-logging in most areas of the capital including Shantinagar, Mouchak, Maghbazar, Rampura, Badda, Jatrabari and even posh residential areas such as Gulshan. Following heavy or even not so heavy rains, water rises knee high, preventing many modes of transport from plying the roads, and clogging up in water and severe traffic, those that do. Water-logging damages infrastructure, destroys vegetation and aquatic habitats and gives rise to waterborne diseases from the overflow of sewerage polluting the water. Driven by sheer necessity, people wade through the contaminated water, but it is a hygienic nightmare.
Inadequate drainage sections and outlets, outdated drainage system with low capacity and gravity and lack of proper maintenance, natural salutation, absence of inlets and outlets, and, perhaps most importantly, the disposal of solid waste into the drains and drainage paths are the prime causes of water-logging in the capital. Canals and wetlands have been filled up at will on the pretext of real estate development, depriving the rainwater of its natural outlets. The drainage system as it now stands lacks proper maintenance and needs renovation, if not a complete overhaul. While measures are sometimes taken to clear the sewerage, it is often left on the roadside, only to flow back into the drains and back onto the roads during heavy rain, thus carrying on the vicious cycle.
Dhaka City is in dire need of proper planning and coordination, not least, of proper inlets and outlets for its water flow. Collaboration between the public and private sectors in developing the urban drainage system may be in order. So far, the Detailed Area Plan, which was approved to deal with the city’s physical and environmental issues, is still on paper. We urge the authorities to implement it with a firm hand as a first step towards easing the woes of the city dwellers and making life in the capital a little more bearable.
Nafisa Pinky

BANGLADESH is one of the most populated countries in the world. As the growth of the urban population increases at an exceptionally rapid rate, its cities are being unable to cope with the situation due to its internal resource constraints and management limitations. In recent years, the mega cities of Bangladesh, such as Dhaka and Chittagong have faced extensive water logging during the monsoon (May to October). Common problems during this period are increase in water pollution, traffic congestion, air and noise pollution, solid waste disposal, etc. This is not only a problem in Dhaka, but also in other cities such as Chittagong, Khulna, Barisal and other populated and less populated cities which have all been cruel victims of water logging.
Structural causes are one of the main culprits behind the problem of water logging. Rapid urbanisation, unplanned digging of roads for maintenance purpose, unplanned and unsecured drainage system, shrinking of natural drainage and wetlands due to unauthorised land filling and illegal construction over canals is all contributing to water logging. Constant land grabbing is leading to the blockage of natural filtration of rainfall, thus, adding to the problem at hand.
Improper management is another major contributor. Governing authorities do not have any long term, coordinated plans to address the problem of water logging. The government has failed to maintain any control over unauthorised and unplanned development that is occupying canals and water bodies in and around cities. They do not even bother to supervise the digging of roads during monsoon by WASA, Rajuk, City Corporation and other private developers.
People of mega cities like Dhaka, Chittagong and other populated cities have valid reasons to be worried as it is they who suffer from problems caused by water logging. Even due to slight rainfall, roads sometimes become unusable. For example, after slight rainfall, many areas of Dhaka like Mouchak, Farmgate, Dhanmondi, Bijay Sarani and other areas get completely inundated. This scenario is not only common in Dhaka, but also in other populated cities in Bangladesh. As there are no potholes or proper manholes on many streets of the cities, it becomes difficult for drivers to drive their automobiles. In such circumstances, one can easily imagine the sufferings of pedestrians on a rainy day. On the other hand, CNG and rickshaw drivers exploit the situation demanding higher fare.
As the population of Bangladesh keeps growing faster, the mega cities are unable to meet the demands of the new population. Moreover, unplanned construction works are making the drainage problems more severe. Thus, water logging is not only a burden on the inhabitants of Dhaka and other cities, but it also creates adverse social, physical, economic and environmental impacts. Disruption of traffic movement, damage of structures and infrastructure, loss of income potentials are the effects of water-logging on city life.
In order to eradicate this problem, natural drainage system has to be restored. Road construction and other public facility based work should be undertaken at proper times and must be finished before the arrival of the rainy season. Unauthorised filling of canals must be stopped, and those responsible must be punished. The government should take proper measures to ensure these criterions are being fulfilled. It is up to our honourable government to immediately address the problem and relieve the population of cities such as Dhaka and others from the serious sufferings they have to endure because of water logging.
Shabnam Talukder Barsha
School of Law
BRAC University

MY WIFE who lives in Chittagong repeatedly pressures me to leave the country and immigrate to a first world country like USA, Australia or Canada. Her attempts at persuading me gets more severe during the rainy season as she hates the water clogging that occurs in Bangladesh. She argues, ‘we are an unintelligent nation when it comes to managing roads, highways, cannels and rivers and the degree of intelligence is deteriorating day by day. The nation will not only be rectified through a long process, but neither we, nor our next generation will be able to enjoy it.’ I usually disagree in a positive and diplomatic manner, but I cannot ignore her, as I know, this phenomenon of flooding of cities and towns by rain water has been common in Bangladesh for a long time. Water logging in Dhaka, Narayangonj, Chittagong and other cities and towns is well-known. Yet, it is only increasing day by day making our urban life unbearable.
I live in both Dhaka and Chittagong, according to my work schedule. Thus, I have become accustomed to the circumstances of these two city and their peripherals — the urban life, behaviour of people, the sufferings of the masses, etc. Sometimes, I get depressed and think, ‘why the existing drainage system isn’t improved or even maintained properly? Why is it that the inhabitants are allowed to throw garbage on the streets which in turn clogs up the drains? Why is it that the government does not prepare any proper plans for the purpose of saving the natural canals and rivers which might help the clogged water to subside? Why does the authorities allow for the streets to be dug up every now and then without any proper plan for renovation?
My wife tells me, ‘in Chittagong, rainwater from the hillside rush to onto the roads across the valleys submerging the roads and their surroundings.’ Thus, proper channelling of rainwater from the hillsides should be done to prevent this from happening. Governments, NGOs, business leaders and others should come up with collective initiatives. Otherwise, the numerous miserable experiences I have been through, and other people have to go through, due to water clogging, will continue.
Hossain Md Aktar

WE ARE an agricultural country and we have six seasons. In rainy season particularly, heavy rain falls continuously throughout the day and night. Sometimes, because of this the roads and pathways are submerged in water, which ends up drowning our locality. As we live in Dhaka city, more vehicles are seen on the roads at all time. However, our roads are not sufficiently smooth enough. The heavy rain fall on top of that makes driving very difficult and thus, we have to face horrible traffic everywhere.
Unfortunately, our traffic system is not modern enough to address the problem. Our drainage and sewerage systems are not good. If only we had good planning and the authorities performed their duties properly, we would not have to face such problems. Our rainy season lasts for about two or three months. During that time, it rains on and off and sometimes, it is a continuous process. Thought this rain is very much needed in our villages to cultivate paddy, jute and other crops, it brings much suffering for the townsfolk and city dwellers. As we do not have a wisely planned out drainage system to get rid of the water from storing immediately, mud and rubbish, particularly poly-bags blocks the mouth of the drain exits and the result is traffic problems, as water overflows onto the roads.
Our man holes are seen open all the times. People naturally throw rubbish into them and they are jammed up in such a way that water cannot pass as usual. Particularly in rainy season, there is the problem of water logging, creating trouble for everyone to maneuver around from one place to another. Life becomes slow, hampering the movement from offices and businesses to other places due to the water logging. It is worth mentioning that when water is stored for three to four days many small insects grow, things rot giving off bad smells, overall polluting the environment. These things should be taken seriously as they are known to cause various skin diseases. In cities, people living in slums especially, are exposed to sufferings that know no bounds.
I would like to make a request to our government, that they should, through proper authority, take the necessary steps and find out the main reasons for water logging and deal with them properly. First, our war commissioners should look after his area and make sure routine works are done properly. Second, every two or three months he should inform those above him to take the proper initiatives to clean the drains and sweep the roads and the pathways in order to maintain general cleanliness.
Often, piles of bricks and sand can be seen on the roadside for construction purposes. These should not be kept on the roadside. This should be enforced severely. No person with political influence should interfere with such things. Manholes and drain covers should be made and set up in such a way that there is no way of stealing them. The government must ensure nobody is filling up the low lands in the cities, constructing high rise buildings there and should take the necessary steps according to the law of the land to make sure they are not broken. City corporation should also be involved in providing their workers in cleaning the roads and the drainage system regularly. On top of all of this, we must start construction on new and better drainage systems and make sure all of them are maintained properly.
Tongi, Gazipur 

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