Lack of coordination keeps port city waterlogged


Tax official riding a boat to reach their office in Chittagong’s Agrabad. Photo: Jewel ShilChattogram city becomes inundated with water at the slightest of rain and the people suffer. Various projects have been taken up since the eighties to resolve this water-logging problem, but to no avail. The problem with these projects is that there is a complete lack of cooperation between the Chattogram City Corporation, the Chittagong port authority and other organisations involved.

The key to resolving the port city’s water-logging problem is the UNDP-funded drainage master plan taken up in 1995. However, the plan remains unimplemented, as it remains undecided as to who should take up the task - the city corporation or Chattogram Development Authority (CDA).

The project for Chattogram City Corporation to excavate a canal from Bahaddarhat to Karnaphuli was passed by ECNEC in 2014, but has not been implemented due to lack of funds. Now CDA has taken up a Tk 50 billion mega project, bypassing the city corporation headed by the Awami League elected mayor. In the past the Chattogram residents suffered because the government was of Awami League and the mayor was of BNP. However, now both government and mayor are of Awami League, but the people still suffer as, it is perceived, the mayor is not quite in the government’s favour. The negative impact of this on the port city is obvious.

Freeing Chattogram city from water-logging involves the river Karnaphuli and freeing the several canals of encroachment, dredging and bringing an end to the hills being cut down. Prior to the independent of the country, there were 70 canals in the city. Now 20 are extinct and 58 remain. But the present mega project only takes 36 canals into accounts, ignoring 22 for some unknown reason.

It has been 15 months since the project was taken up and so far 13 canals have been dredged. There were over 1500 illegal structures on these canals and recently the CDA, with the help of the army, has begun removing these. But it is important to ensure that in future these canals remain clean and free of encroachment. The task cannot simply end with the mega project.

To get tangible results from these efforts, there must be continued care and maintenance. Experts feel that this is not the task of CSA, but of experts and the city corporation. But city corporation has not been kept in the loop.

In the past the port authority has suddenly built a dam across the Mahesh canal. This worsened the water-logging alarmingly and the local people broke down the dam. Taking up mega projects is not enough. The water-logging must be resolved once and for all.

It is important for the city corporation to be involved in this project. WASA seems to have appeared on the scene. If there is a lack of cooperation between CDA, the city corporation and WASA, then the mega project will not deliver the required results.

In keeping with the recent High Court directives, every canal must be restored to its original size and shape with boundary pillars and the removal of encroachments. The river project commission must certainly be involved in the ensuring the navigability of the river Karnaphuli. This is legally bound. And there must be zero tolerance about cutting down hills. If the hills continue to be cut down, the canals will be filled with sand once again. All precautions must be taken in implementing the mega project.

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