Despite being a profitable organisation, Dhaka WASA (Water Supply and Sewerage Authority) still depends on the allocations from the ministry to clear the water logging in Dhaka.
WASA’ funds to eliminate water logging came down to zero despite the organisation making profits every year.
WASA’s senior officials said the organisation was dependent on the ministry to solve the water logging in the capital. WASA is not ready to spend a single penny from its own funds.
In the past, the Department of Public Health Engineering was responsible to address the water logging problem in Dhaka. WASA was then given the responsibility in 1989. The organisation is now responsible for the city’s water supply water and clearing the water logging.
WASA sources said the organisation has built 360 km of deep drains for water drainage since it got the responsibility. Other than that, WASA has 10-km of box culverts and 26 canals.
WASA has two circles and a division for maintenance and development — the Drainage (Management and maintenance) Circle, the Drainage Research and Development Circle, and the Planning and Development (Drainage) division.
The drainage management and maintenance circle is responsible for removing the water logging at a field level.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, two senior officials said WASA did not provide any money to the circle in the last two fiscals (2017-18) and (2018-19 fiscal). WASA approved Tk 27.5 million but did not disburse the funds.
One of the officials of the circle, seeking anonymity, said the drainage (management and maintenance) circle is one of the most neglected sections of the organisation.
The employees of the department have no funds other than for salaries and allowances and so department’s work depends on the ministry’s allocation.
When asked why WASA had this attitude despite being a profitable organisation, the official said the senior officials could reply to that better.
A number of officials of the circle said they had allocations of Tk 27.5 million to Tk 110 million when WASA was less profitable. However, the allocation came to zero despite the increase in profit.
According to WASA’s latest annual report, the profit of the organisation in the fiscal 2014-15 was Tk 104.8 million whereas the profit in 2015-16 fiscal was Tk 180.9 million. The profit in 2016-17 fiscal was Tk 220.6 million and in 2017-18 fiscal the profit was Tk 280.2 million. It means the organisation has seen profits every year.
Urban planning expert Adil Mohammad Khan told Prothom Alo that WASA should have allocated some funds to resolve water logging when they had profit. However, it did not happen.
According to the expert, proper maintenance of the canals and other water bodies might have reduced water logging in the city in minimum rain. WASA, however, is interested in new projects rather than maintenance.
WASA seeks funds from the local government ministry every year to remove water from Dhaka. The organisation sought Tk 600 million in the financial year of 2017-18. The water logging became acute at that time. The ministry allocated Tk 400 million.
WASA said it has dredged and cleared 20 to 25-km of 19 canals. It has cleared box culverts of 8.80 km and drains of 280 km.
Some 1300 catchpits were established to direct rain water to the drains.
WASA sought Tk 400 million from the local government ministry in the financial year of 2018-19. The ministry allocated Tk 50 million and more Tk 200 million has been allocated in the current fiscal.
WASA officials said the organisation had a shortage of Tk 350 million in the last fiscal (2018-19). Some Tk 500 million will be sought in this fiscal to adjust the shortage and to carry out more activities, the officials added.
“WASA allocated some money to remove water logging in the past. We now carry out the maintenance work with the fund from the ministry. We have no revenue from the drains,” WASA MD Taqsem A Khan told Prothom Alo.
Bangladesh Institute of Planners vice president professor Akhtar Mahmud said it was simply negligence that WASA does not allocate for the maintenance work.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said WASA has to take the responsibility to clear the drains.
As water logging had become acute in 2017, local government minister Khandaker Moshraf Hossain at that time said Dhaka will not be waterlogged from the following year.
In 2018, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved two projects. The projects are: ‘Dhaka Metropolitan Drainage Network Expansion and Canal Development’ and ‘Land Acquisition and Dredging of Hazaribagh, Baishteki, Kurmitala, Manda and Begunbari Canals’. These two projects are being implemented at the cost of Tk 11.58 billion.
According to the progress of the implementation of these two projects till June, the progress of one project is only 8.25 per cent in one year while another is 1.5 per cent in 14 months.
About the slow progress, Taksim A Khan said it takes time to start the implementation of the project due to the complexity of land acquisition, and now the implementation is going on in full swing.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam and Saimul Huda