The absence of the issue of waterlogging from his 'to-do' list unveiled by the newly elected mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) at a press conference in Dhaka on Saturday last appears rather strange.
The mayor has divided his work targets for the next one year in three terms---short, medium and long. His presentation at the press conference does indicate that he had done his homework well before taking over the job of DNCC mayor. Yet dropping the waterlogging problem from his work agenda does appear somewhat inappropriate.
The monsoon is still three months away. Yet some areas within the DNCC went under knee-deep water during a couple of rain spells occurred last week under the influence of a low formed in the Bay of Bengal.
In fact, most people are now bracing for the worst waterlogging in many parts of Dhaka city during the upcoming rainy season as the authorities until now have done nothing despite their repeated promise to improve the situation by restoring a number of canals lost to grabbers and cleaning both surface drains and other water channels.
Late DNCC mayor Annisul Huq had been truly sincere in his efforts to solve the waterlogging problem as far as humanly possible. He had taken up the issues with the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives on a number of occasions. Annis had also made known his dissatisfaction over the role of Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (DWASA) in resolving the waterlogging problem in Dhaka city. It is no secret that he lent his total support to the media campaign to recover the canals of Dhaka from the occupation of grabbers.
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) during the last financial year approved a cost-intensive priority project for restoring a number of canals in both DNCC and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) to their previous forms.
However, the word 'priority' does not carry any meaning to relevant government officials as they are prone to taking 'business-as-usual' approach while they attend official work. Only recently has a project director reportedly been appointed for overseeing the implementation of the project that, if implemented properly, could largely mitigate the sufferings of city dwellers, to a large extent. It is unlikely that the residents of localities that are badly affected by waterlogging would get any respite during the upcoming monsoon or the next one.
The problem of waterlogging is feared to turn worse during the next monsoon because of the fact that most surface drains and so-called canals have been further silted up as neither the corporations nor the DWASA had taken any measure to remove silt and garbage from those. What is more worrying is that the process of filling up a number of large water bodies in some parts of Dhaka city by powerful quarters has been going on unabated. The relevant agencies are least enthusiastic about taking action against such grabbers, unfortunately.
The dry season is still on. So, the people are yet to encounter the problems that they usually face during the rainy season, the worst among them being the water-logging. But with the arrival of the monsoon, the problem would reemerge, so will be their annoyance.
Whether the exclusion of the problem of waterlogging from the list of immediate tasks of the new DNCC mayor was deliberate or not is difficult to know. But for fulfilling the promise to make Dhaka a 'functioning' city, it remains an important job for him to help solve the city's waterlogging problem. It should be one of his priorities. During a moderate to heavy downpour, the city stops functioning as roads, lanes, by-lanes and residential areas are submerged. In such a situation it is natural for the Dhakaites to hold all relevant agencies responsible for causing sufferings to them on account of inaction.
The fact remains that the honourable mayor would not be able to get away pointing accusing fingers at any other organisation, namely, the DWASA. Undeniably, the DWASA has to play an important role in the city's rain and waste-water drainage system. The city corporations do also play a role. They have built a vast network of surface drains and many of those remain clogged for most of the times as those are not cleaned by the concerned personnel. Failing to pass through the surface drain network, household waste water in many parts of the city is seen flooding adjacent roads and lanes. Rain waters make the situation even worse.
There is no denying that the tasks the new DNCC mayor has included in his 'to-do' list are no less important. Mosquito eradication, pavement clearing, green Dhaka etc. are well-chosen priorities. Meeting those objectives could prove quite challenging. Besides, he has a short tenure. It would be difficult to achieve his goals within such a short time. However, his performance would come under scrutiny if he intends to run for the post of DNCC mayor for the second time.
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