Dhaka city residents witnessed the usual on Tuesday morning. Following a downpour measuring 85mm, the highest in four years, roads in different parts of the city went under the knee to waist-deep water. In some areas, overflowing rainwater sneaked into residential houses and other structures. Office-going people got stuck up as vehicular movement faced severe disruption.
A leading vernacular daily, in its next day's issue, said water-logging in the event of a moderate to heavy rainfall was more of a fait accompli for the city residents. None would, possibly, disagree with such observation. There have been plenty of assurances about ending their plight. But the situation has only turned worse over the years.
Until recently, almost everybody blamed the Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (DWASA) for the problem of widespread water-logging. Even the city corporation honchos had been critical of the DWASA. The agency deserves such censuring since it has shown a high level of incompetence and inefficiency in executing several projects that would ease the city's waterlogging problem.
A couple of projects are glaring examples. The progress in the execution of these projects does not deserve even any mention. In July 2018, the DWASA took up a project styled Dhaka City Drainage Network Expansion and Canal Development at a cost of Tk 5.55 billion. The project aims to re-excavate five canals after the acquisition of land belonging to those. The project was to end in December 2020. The progress, however, achieved until April last was only 32 per cent. Now the DWASA has sought an extension of the project duration to June 2023. It is unlikely that the agency would be able to complete the project that, if completed properly, would rid at least 5.0 million people of the problem of waterlogging.
The other project highlights an extreme level of incompetence on the part of the DWASA. The Tk-6.0 billion project was designed to restore five important canals, namely, Hazaribagh, Baisteki, Kurmitola, Manda and Begunbari canals through the acquisition of land. The project, which started in April 2018, was scheduled to be completed in December 2019. The progress until April last was as low as 7.0 per cent. The project life has been extended twice meanwhile until December next year. The project cost has gone up simultaneously by over Tk 450 million.
The decision to transfer the responsibility of overseeing the operation of canals and drains from the DWSA to the two city corporation has been long overdue. The mayors of the two city corporations also wanted such transfer since the city residents tend to blame them for the problem of waterlogging. Now they have got the responsibility, they have to work hard to solve the problem to the maximum possible extent.
After receiving the responsibility, two corporations have removed dirt and silt from some underground drains and cleared some canals. This work has helped fast-draining out of rain waters from the streets in some areas after Tuesday's heavy downpour. But it remains imperative for the corporations to take up the execution work of the two major canal projects at a fast pace. The city residents might prefer to give them a bit of time and bear with the problem this monsoon. Not beyond that.
The corporations, in the meantime, need to engage in temporary efforts to lessen the problem of waterlogging in Dhaka. The mayors should hold a joint press conference to explain to the people the immediate and future programmes to mitigate it.