The maintenance of Dhaka city's drainage system, it seems, is now nobody's responsibility.
A report published in this paper last week said the incumbent managing director of the Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (DWASA) in the year 2014 had transferred the responsibility of maintaining the city's drainage system to two city corporations. The board of directors of DWASA, reportedly, was not consulted before taking this policy decision.
However, the transfer of responsibility has remained on paper only since the legal requirements in this connection has not been met as yet. The DWASA Act-1996 needs to be amended to give effect to the transfer. Moreover, the city corporations are not interested to take over the responsibility until and unless certain conditions are met before any such transfer.
But the transfer order has contributed to the deterioration of the city's ill-managed drainage system further. The drainage division of DWSA has been inactive since the issuance of the order and 178 officials and employees of the division, allegedly, have been drawing their salaries and benefits without doing any work for a period of more than two years.
So, the maintenance of the city' drainage system is now stalled with WASA doing the unilateral transfer of the responsibility and the two city corporations unwilling to take over an 'ICU patient'.
The DWASA seems very eager to get rid of a task that has become very difficult to accomplish. Moreover, water-logging, which is the end-result of clogged drains and filled-up natural waterways, has been drawing scathing criticism from all directions. However, it is none but the DWASA is responsible for the current state of the city's drainage system. For decades, it has been a mute spectator of the death of canals in Dhaka city. It watched with indifference the grabbing of natural water bodies, including canals, by influential people. The recovery of these canals, in many cases, is now impossible.
Many areas of Dhaka city go under knee-deep water following brief showers just because of poor drainage system. The situation has turned worse lately.
Minister for Local Government Dr. Engineer Khandaker Musharraf Hossain at a meeting held in the wake of water logging of severe nature in many areas of the city on July 15 last had announced that the two city corporations of Dhaka would be the lead agencies in solving the water-logging problem. But mayor of Dhaka north city corporation (DNCC) refused to take over the responsibility of an 'ICU patient'.
Later, the LGRD minister talking to the newsmen in Dhaka promised to solve the water-logging problem by next monsoon. Such a promise had evoked surprise instantly, for even the layman knew it was not possible to resolve the problem within such a short time.
With the agency responsible for the maintenance of the city's drainage system remaining nobody's baby, how would the minister solve the water-logging problem so fast?
Whenever the issue of water-logging comes up for discussion, all accusing fingers are pointed at the DWASA. However, it would be unfair to accuse one particular organisation of the failure to maintain the proper drainage system in the capital city. The city corporation is also partly responsible since many surface drains are not cleaned regularly.
Besides, some politically influential people at the local level have grabbed canals and large drains and built markets and residential houses on those. Questions may arise as to how could the grabbers manage documents of ownership over canals and drains and got building plans approved by appropriate authorities? But there should be no reason to be surprised, for anything is possible in this country if one was ready to spend the right amount of money at the right place.
Unless prevented at the time of grabbing, it becomes almost impossible to drive the grabbers out. Moreover, the government agencies are found reluctant to take the trouble of evicting grabbers. Ultimately, residents and various localities suffer due to inaction on the part of the relevant government agencies.
It may sound a bit pessimistic but the fact remains that the Dhakites will have no respite from water-logging anytime soon. Rather, it might turn worse in the coming years. Residents are to blame partly for the problems they have been encountering for years. They are found dumping household waste into surface drains and canals. They do fail to understand the hard truth that it is none but they would ultimately suffer due to the clogging of these water channels, natural or otherwise. With a large segment of its population lacking civic sense and the relevant agencies shunning their duties and responsibilities, one can hardly expect proper living conditions in a mega city like Dhaka.
So, Dhaka, in all probability, will continue to find a place among the world cities known for worst living conditions. Nobody knows for how many years such a situation will continue. But it could be a pretty long time. The problem of water-logging during the monsoon will be mentioned as a major problem facing the city.