Conflict between two organisations over waterlogging in Chattogram

City Corporation used to do the job of removing waterlogging in the Chattagram city. CDA took the responsibility of this arduous and complex job six years ago. The conflict between the two organisations regarding the matter is still going on. CDA has undertaken at least 25 projects worth Tk 180 billion.

A woman and her children take shelter on a cot as rainwaters did not recede for three days. The photo was taken from Chakbazar area in Chattogram on 6 August, 2023
Prothom Alo

Chattogram Development Authority (CDA) had no experience regarding the digging and maintaining the canal and drains of Chattagram city. They did not have a definite department or manpower either. Despite that the organisation suddenly got a big project in 2017 to eradicate the long-standing problem of waterlogging in the city.

CDA was in jeopardy with that project of TK 56.16 billion. They could not finish the job, which was stipulated for three years, even in six. The citizens have to pay for it. People are still suffering due to the waterlogging. Chattogram city has been submerged in rain and tidal water for at least 12 times this year.

Earlier, Chattogram City Corporation used to do the job of removing waterlogging in the Chattagram city. CDA took the responsibility of this arduous and complex job six years ago. The conflict between the two organisations regarding the matter is still going on. CDA has undertaken at least 25 projects worth Tk 180 billion. Urban planners and experts commented that the CDA is not able to fulfill its core responsibilities properly despite taking on the work of others.

The main responsibility of CDA is to make Chattogram a well-planned, modern and livable city. The responsibility of this organisation is also to ensure housing for city dwellers. Another major responsibility of CDA is to control any kind of unplanned development on land and to carry out the works to build modern and attractive tourist areas and town-planning development.

Analysing the last 15 years’ activities of CDA, the city planners and engineers are saying, rather than building a planned Chattogram the CDA focused more on structural development especially on constructing elevated highway and elevated expressway and projects of eradicating waterlogging. The organisation never had the capacity and skilled manpower to implement these projects. As a result, they failed to deliver the projects on time. Again, while doing these works, the organisation did not properly supervise whether the building is being constructed according to the design or not. As a result, unplanned urbanisation could not be prevented.

Established in 1959, the area under CDA jurisdiction is 1,152 square kilometers. Currently 320 people are working in the organisation against 519 posts.

Liability ends with approval, no supervision

One of the main responsibilities of CDI is to approve the design of buildings (buildings or structures) and prevent illegal construction. One of the main missions of the organisation is to build a durable, expanding and livable Chattogram City for its inhabitants by approving planned construction and control.

In order to construct a building in a CDA regulated area, one has to first obtain a land use permit from the organisation. Later, construction approval or design has to be taken. However, to get these clearances and design approvals, one often faces harassment. Allegedly, the CDA finishes their liability just by approving the design. Whether the buildings are constructed according to the design conditions is not monitored later.

Buildings are being constructed in violation of approval conditions in almost all cases due to this negligence of the organisation.

Every year CDA approves 2,000 designs on average. That means on average 2,000 buildings are constructed each year in the CDA regulated area. CDA, however, has no concrete data of how many buildings are constructed without approval or by breaching the conditions of the approval within the city.

According to the Detailed Area Plan (DAP) prepared in 2008, no structure can be built within 12 feet of the canal bank. But without following this instruction, 1,804 structures have been built along the banks of the canal. Now these structures have to be removed for the city's drainage project.

For this, the owners of the establishment will have to pay compensation of Tk 2.24 billion. That is, this money has to be paid for the negligence of CDA supervision.

CDA undertook the Kalpalok Residential Area project in Baklia in 2005 to ensure planned housing. In 2014, the plot was handed over to the customers and the building constructions started there. Now about four hundred buildings have been built. However, in many buildings the design was not followed. In 2019, CDA issued notices to 40 building owners for constructing buildings breaching the design. Then on March 12 of this year, 10 buildings were demolished partially due to non-compliance with the design.

CDA’s chief city planner in charge Kazi Hasan bin Shams admitted, once they did not have any assessment while approving the building plans. The buildings were constructed by using the loopholes of law. But, from now on they are strictly controlling.

Flaws in the project, work not finished in time

City Awami League treasurer Abdus Salam was given the responsibility of the CDA Chairman after Awami League had ascended to power back in 2009. After that CDA focused more on infrastructural development rather than fulfilling its main responsibility. They undertook project after project.

CDA undertook at least 25 projects worth Tk 180 billion in 15 years from 2009 to 2023. Among these development projects are waterlogging, new roads, elevated expressway, flyovers and road expansion etc. Already the work of 18 projects have been finished and seven have been under progress. None of these 25 projects have been finished on time. Hence, their costs were increased.

One of the projects currently underway is the 15 km Chittagong City Outer Ring Road. The project was approved in January 2011. This project is yet to be finished. The project had to be revised four times. The estimated construction cost of Tk 8.56 billion has now increased to Tk 33.24 billion.  Despite huge expenditure, the project remains incomplete.

The Ministry of Planning's Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Department has identified several issues in the 'In-depth monitoring report' of the project. It is said that if the feeder road-2, connecting road and service roads are not constructed, it will be difficult for the local residents to travel. Besides, the full benefits of the project will not be met. The report also recommended the construction of roads.

Another project that is underway for 10 years is the six kilometres connecting the road between Bayezid Bostami road’s Banglabazar to Faujdarhat of Dhaka-Chattogram highway. The estimated cost of this project upon its approval in 2013 was Tk 1.72 billion. It was supposed to be finished by 2015. But after two rounds of expenditure increased, now the project cost has reached Tk 3.53 billion. However, the government did not agree to pay the increased Tk 330 million in the last phase. This money will be collected from the public as tolls. The company has cut down 16 hills while constructing this road. As a result, the local biodiversity and the surrounding existing hills are at peril.

Flood relief and elevated expressway construction projects have been rushed without feasibility study. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina raised questions about the defects of the flood relief project in the ECNEC meeting. Now the project has to be revised again. The cost of the project of TK 56.16 billion has now increased to Tk 85 billion. Despite that, no reservoir has been kept in the project. The number of silt-traps in canals has been reduced. However, the government has not yet approved the revised project.

And the design of the elevated expressway from Lalkhan Bazar to Patenga had to be changed at least thrice. First it was supposed to go up to the airport. Later it was reduced to Patenga. And the port area was supposed to be built outside the road. Later it is designed to be built in the middle of the existing road. The Lalkhan Bazar area also had to revise the design.

Apart from this, CDA has constructed two flyovers on CDA Avenue, Sheikh Mujib Road and Airport Road, the main roads of the city. Elevated expressway is under construction. Due to these installations, the construction of metro rail has become a hindrance in the city. However, from road transport experts to representatives of civil society, they repeatedly requested not to build these flyovers. CDA did not pay heed to these suggestions.

CDA itself is being involved with the unplanned structural development instead of controlling development, commented Delwar Majumdar, the former chairman of Engineers’ Institute Bangladesh (IIB) Chattogram circle and former national council member of TIB. He told Prothom Alo, CDA did not have the structural and organisational preparation to do the development works. Hence, they could not plan in advance how to implement the projects that they had taken, and what kind of obstacles or problems might arise during the implementation. Starting to deal with these deficiencies creates a crisis. As the duration of the projects has increased while eliminating these crises, so has the cost. Also, people are deprived of the benefits due to not completing the project on time.

No focus on housing

One of the main responsibilities of CDA was to ensure housing. But CDA has not implemented any housing project since 2005. CDA undertook a project titled Ananya Residential Area in 2017 but in the end refrained from it. However, higher officials of the organisation and the ministry visited abroad under the aegis of the project.

After its establishment, CDA implemented the first housing project in 1963 in Katalganj residential area. Then implemented 11 more projects. However, no buildings have yet been constructed in the Karnaphuli residential area on the south side of the Karnaphuli river under the project undertaken in 1995 and the Ananya residential area under the project undertaken in 2005. Plot owners are unable to construct buildings in these residential areas as minimum civic amenities are not guaranteed.

CDA did not play its role in terms of building a planned city, commented Mohammad Rashidul Hasan, president of Bangladesh Institute of Planners Chattogram Chapter and professor of Chattogram Engineering and Technology University. He said, rather than fulfilling the responsibilities, the organisation focused more on structural development like waterlogging projects, flyovers, elevated expressway and constructing flats. These are the responsibilities of other organisations. This role of the CDA has deepend the sufferings of the inhabitants of the city.