The speakers at the event said if sewerage management can be carried out in a coordinated manner, it will be possible to nationally achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in this regard.

The keynote at the roundtable was presented by former professor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) and technical advisor to UNICEF, Mujibur Rahman. He said Dhaka’s sanitation is in a very precarious state. This message must be given to the people. After all, they are the ones who are discharging the sewerage from the latrines. Planning cannot proceed without public awareness.

The contaminated water first goes to the drains, then the canals and then the rivers, polluting the water. We are creating a social movement involving everyone to tackle this challenge. This must begin from the households
Atiqul Islam, Mayor, Dhaka North City Corporation

Highlighting research findings, Mujibur Rahman said that sewerage from only 25 per cent of the households in the city was discharged into WASA sewers. The remaining 75 per cent went to septic tanks. And the waste is not reaching the treatment plants even through the drainage as the lifting pumps are out of order. The treatment plant at Pagla has a capacity for 120,000 cubic metres of sewerage per day, but only 30,000 to 40,000 cubic metres of sewerage reaches the plant daily.

Speaking at the meeting, Dhaka North City mayor Atiqul Islam said, “After taking over responsibility of the canals, we see that the contaminated water first goes to the drains, then the canals and then the rivers, polluting the water. We are creating a social movement involving everyone to tackle this challenge. This must begin from the households. Dhaka North City Corporation has also created short, medium and long-term plans for sewerage management.”

Dhaka WASA managing director Taqsem A Khan said, “After taking over responsibility, I saw that Dhaka WASA has no master plan. They work on a day to day basis. A master plan was prepared in 2012 and institutional restructuring was done. Now WASA has a clear roadmap for sewerage management up till 2030.”

Member of Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkya (RAJUK)’s planning division, Nasir Uddin, said, if the citizens had a competition among themselves about keeping the city clean and healthy, there would be no problems in the city.

DNCC chief waste management officer SM Sharif Ul Islam said 50 per cent of the task is done if the problem is identified. Good leadership and commitment is required to complete the rest.

Chairman of Banani Society, Shawkat Ali Bhuiyan, said stern measures must be taken to determine which household has sewerage connections and which does not. Banani Society will extend all cooperation in this regard.

Professor of civil engineering a BUET and ITN director Tanvir Ahmed said it would not be possible to fully solve the problem by just constructing sewerage drains. Until work on the sewerage waste treatment plant was completed, measures had to be taken to ensure sewerage storage in septic tanks, removal and treatment.

Director of BRAC’s Communicable Diseases and WASH project Akramul Islam said while there are septic tanks for sewerage waste, treatment of this waste was uncertain.

UNICEF WASH officer Syed Adnan Ibne Hakim said the 12 city corporations of the country were the main partners in ensuring sewerage management. The Dhaka North City initiative would be an inspiration to the other city corporations. Due to sewerage waste at home, children become victims of pollution.

Vice president of the Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh (REHAB), Sohel Rana, said even if they make a septic tank in the building, the residents later do not bother about its management. REHAB will work in coordination with the city corporation and WASA in this connection.

Additional chief engineer of DNCC, Tariq Bin Yusuf, said the city corporation recently took over responsibility of sewerage management. It will not be possible for the city corporations alone to do the work.

Prothom Alo associate editor Quayum Chowdhury presented the opening statement at the roundtable. He said, “We still see sewerage mixed with the water in the canals and lakes. There is a lack of consciousness among the people of the city. There is also a lack of supervision on the part of the authorities.”

The event was moderated by Prothom Alo assistant editor Firoz Choudhury.