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Tell me, why do we call Dhaka city a city? Just because it houses all the government offices, has most of the motorized vehicles, people come to Dhaka for better income, and there are numerous tall buildings?
Is that the definition of a city? Or is it because we call it our capital, and that’s why it has to be a city? What about the liveablity of a city? Is Dhaka liveable, as people expect it to be?
When it rains, Dhaka sheds off all its ability to call itself a city. An hour’s rain is good enough to submerge most of the roads because of its poor sewage system. We couldn’t, after years of attempts, implement the technology that would suck the water under the ground after a heavy rain. The city has always been logged with water during any rain.
This year, it has been more serious than yesteryears. Last week, we saw a deluge in the streets of Dhaka. This year is more important, because we’re in the middle of a pandemic and a flood. The media has reported, right on the day we had waterlogging in the city, that the government agencies that are responsible to fix this problem don’t have any coordination among them. The city is also in the middle of implementing the enormous work of a metro rail and elevated expressway.
A news report says that there are 60 neighbourhoods in Dhaka that have a poor sewage system. We all know Dhaka didn’t have this problem of waterlogging in the past, as there are many rivers flowing around the city. We also had more canals flowing through it, making Dhaka free of waterlogging.
However, unplanned urbanization, grabbing the rivers, and filling up the canals have brought us to this state. Come rainy season, we face the problem of waterlogging as if we are fated to suffer. Some high-ups make some promises every year, but the problem never gets solved. But our common sense says that if we just simply take care of our canals, the problem could be solved quite easily.
Unfortunately, the miserable lack of coordination among the government agencies is responsible for this sorry state, which was also expressed by the mayor of Dhaka North.
According to a report, a Tk550 crore project was unfolded in 2018 for expanding the drainage network in the city. However, the progress of the project is frustrating. We couldn’t even complete 20% of the work at 16 canals, which is scheduled to be completed in December 2020.
This shows that funding is not a problem. The problem is the lack of skill, sincerity, and coordination among the officials and agencies responsible for implementing the project. And it is due to their lack of sincerity that people continue to suffer when it rains.
Experts say six organizations have the responsibility to solve waterlogging in the city, but they don’t work properly. One organization keeps blaming the other.
We experienced severe waterlogging in 2017, and we were made a flurry of promises that it would be solved. The then-minister promised to solve it within a year. The promise didn’t see the light of the day.
If you just have a look at the canals and drains, we see those filled up with everyday waste, blocking the normal flow. And the rivers have been grabbed by corrupt persons, which we couldn’t prevent.
Whenever you question the authorities, they keep repeating the old promises every time. However, we all understand that their promises don’t have any scientific basis and those are just rhetoric. They don’t even know how to measure the rains and their impact on the problem of waterlogging.
Dhaka Wasa has spent Tk100 crore since 2017, but nothing has happened. The agencies don’t have the expertise, as they don’t have separate experts to improve the drainage system.
There are many examples of good sewage systems across the world. Look at Singapore and Hong Kong, where they have even taller buildings than we have. There are many cities that house more people than Dhaka does. Our officials very often travel abroad to get first-hand experiences from those places, but God knows what they do in the name of such learning.
Crores of taka are being spent in the name of solving the problem of waterlogging in the city, which have been a sheer waste of government money. We refuse to accept that we cannot find the right technology, the right kind of experts, or the right agencies to solve it.
Why don’t we just give the city corporations the responsibility to solve it? Simple. Why do all those agencies keep grappling year after year and do nothing to improve the situation?
Maybe we don’t want to solve the problem.
First published in Dhaka Tribune.

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