Waterlogging in Chattogram: Take effective and coordinated steps

Though the people of Chattogram were supposed to get relief from high temperatures when it rained for an hour on 6 May after weeks of heatwave, they actually saw another side of their sufferings. The authorities could remove the uprooted electric poles and trees quickly, but they could not remove the rainwater as the drains and lakes filled up.

Chattogram city went under water 13 times in rain last year. This time the city dwellers are worried even before the start of the rainy season. Why is the situation not improving even after taking projects worth billions of taka to solve the waterlogging of the city, they ask. According to a Prothom Alo report carried on 8 May, though crash programmes are taken every year before the monsoon, there is no such initiative this time.

Four projects of the Chittagong Development Authority (CDA), Chattogram City Corporation and the Water Development Board are ongoing to resolve the waterlogging crisis. Every year coordination and assessments meetings are conducted for coordination in the projects and taking steps identifying problems. But nothing like that happened this year.

Admitting the necessity for the meeting, the chief executive officer of the city corporation said that the meeting was not held due to the reshuffle in the top positions of the CDA. He hoped it would be held soon. The city corporation claims that the drains of the city have been cleaned. But visiting several spots, the Prothom Alo correspondents found the drains and canals were filled with garbage.

Although three organisations have taken up four projects, worth Tk 143.83 billion, to resolve the waterlogging crisis in Chattogram, their progress is not satisfactory. The projects that were taken 7 to 10 years ago, were supposed to be completed within three years of starting the work. But the allocation and time are being extended again and again. If a project is taken 10 years ago, the reality of that time is not the same as the reality of now. In that case, even if the project is completed, there would be questions about its effectiveness.

There are no answers to questions either of granting the work to the CDA even though it had no prior experience of such work.

According to several experts, the projects were taken up without conducting any feasibility study properly. There was no proper plan on sector-wise costing either. And, there were errors in designs.

Delwar Majumder, former chairman of the Chattogram chapter of the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh (IEB) told Prothom Alo that no work was completed on time. Even if the work of the regulator infrastructure was completed, the pump machine has not been installed. In that case, there are apprehensions that the waterlogging will increase more than last time.

The local government minister Tajul Islam himself expressed his anger in October last year about the waterlogging crisis in Chattogram city and inconsistencies in the project’s work. He said, “I want the output of what has been done to resolve the waterlogging. I do not want to hear about meetings and resolutions only. I am disgusted by hearing all this.”

But the hour-long rain on 6 May proves that even the minister’s anger and grievance could not awaken the people involved with the projects’ work. Meteorologists predicted more rains this year. In that case, the three organisations must identify the problems through meetings.

They would take coordinated and effective steps to resolve the waterlogging crisis in Chattogram, instead of their old habit of blaming each other and shifting responsibilities to others, we hope.