The last few days of water-logging were an ominous omen of the deluge Dhaka may face during the monsoons. With 32 mm of rain on Monday, many areas of the capital city went under water. Even the slightest rain floods many areas and it takes inordinately long for the water to drain away after the rains stop. That means the drainage system is weak, which is nothing new. It’s been like this for years.
Why is the drainage system in such a poor state? Firstly, there is an inadequate number of drains. Secondly, the existing drains are not repaired and maintained regularly. Thirdly, there is a lack of coordinated efforts to address the glitches in the drainage system and to improve it. Rather than taking long-term measures to tackle this problem, there is a propensity to spend huge amounts on makeshift measures. This is making water-logging a permanent feature of the city.
Massive funds are spent every year on drainage infrastructure, repairs and maintenance, but to no avail. An example is the repair work on the roads and drainage of Kathal Bagan. Dhaka City Corporation spent total of Tk 40 million on this work which ended in February this year. But with the slightest rainfall in April, the area was waterlogged seven times! So why was so much money spent? Who is accountable?
And Kathal Bagan is not the only example.
It doesn’t take specialised engineering knowhow to realise that the drainage system of a city is interconnected and the drain blockage of one area affects the entire network. The reason that the Kathal Bagan drainage renovations didn’t work is that they water was blocked at the WASA sluice gate behind Sonargaon Hotel. The sluice gate is often jammed with garbage and this jams the entire drainage in the area.
Dhaka WASA is responsible for the drainage of Dhaka city. It does not clear the drains and culverts throughout the year. It just waits for the monsoons to arrive and then takes up the work. Before the raining season, they ask for the allocations and this time received Tk 40 million too. The managing director’s absurd explanation is that the drains have to be cleaned during the rains or else they will get blocked up.
WASA has perhaps forgotten that cleaning the drains, culverts and sluice gates clean is a regular task, not a seasonal one. In fact, it is more difficult to clean the drains during the rainy season because the rains simply bring in more of the garbage.
The city may face serious water-logging this monsoon. WASA needs to keep this in mind and act immediately.