The feasibility study of the waterlogging problem of Chattogram Development Authority, or CDA, was not done properly. So I doubt that the waterlogging problem would be solved so easily, said economist, Professor Dr Moinul Islam. Moreover, the CDA is doing the projectwork without following the master plan. So, we need to change our perceptions that are resulting in bad governance to ensure good governance, said the economist.
Power supply, infrastructural development, road construction, waste management, canal excavation, setting up of health care services and educational institutions etc were all under the aegis of Chittagong municipality before the rule of Ayub Khan. At the end of the 1950s, Chattogram WASA and the CDA were formed. To expand the power and network of bureaucracy, the then authority set up different small organisations by splintering the main office. During 1960s, the municipality’s power had been curtailed, at every step of the way.
In many cities, these duties are still being taken cxare of by city government and it is logical. In 1996, the then mayor ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury took initiative to form the city government.
The former city mayor Mohiuddin Chodhury ruled Chattogram three times mostly during the tenure of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, so most his of the projects were not promoted by the then ministry of local government back then. As a result, many of his creative projects did not get approval.
Former mayor Monzur Alam joined BNP by quitting Awami League, so in his tenure he did not get due allocation for Chattogram and most fundings were diverted to the CDA. The CDA chairman got allocation and constructed flyovers though there are debates about the necessity of these flyovers.
The master plan of 1993 did not mention all these mega projects. Mega projects or development works should be done following the master plan and feasibility study report.
Institute of Governance and Development of BRAC university published a report titled ‘State of Cities: Governance for a liveable Chittagong’, in 2014, which showed that the main problem of Chattogram was that Chattogram City Corporation, or the CCC, was not empowered enough, said Professor Dr Moinul Islam.
There are several formal institutions and authorities that provide (and regulate) services to the urban dwellers of Chattogram. The competition between key government agencies, notably the CDA and the CCC, to establish their dominance in terms of authority is also perceived as a constraint to the city’s development. Having a single point authority, ensuring horizontal accountability, would have helped solve some of the problems, Moinul Islam pointed out.
Limited cooperation between the CDA and the CCC is apparently affecting the city’s day-to-day functioning and planning and also implementation of its long-term plans, he added.
Apart from the CCC and the CDA, there are a large number of agencies that are responsible for implementing the city’s master plan. Due to either fund constraints or the concerned agency’s lack of accountability, the city has witnessed little progress as far as the implementation of its master plan is concerned, he said.
The 20 year-long CDA Master Plan (1995-2015) expired, leaving most projects unimplemented. Although Chattogram has been declared the commercial capital of Bangladesh, entrepreneurs find the business climate in the port city less than friendly for investment, as they have to depend on the capital city for policy decisions that cost them time and money, ultimately affecting their competitiveness.
According to the Detailed Area Plan, for the existing urban areas of Chattogram, priorities are the problem such as drainage and sanitation, garbage disposal, traffic congestion, lack of safe drinking water, shortage of electricity and gas supply, industrial waste treatment plant, etc. However, most need-based plans remain largely unimplemented.
To address the problem of waterlogging, the Drainage Master Plan (1995-2015) proposed, among others, excavation of three primary new canals and a few secondary canals, Moinul Islam revealed.
‘Construction of a navigation gate in front of Chaktai canal and sluice gate in front of Mohesh canal, and re-profiling and construction of silt trap in some canals were also in the pipeline, he added.
According to an urban planner who was involved in preparation of the master plan, none of these proposals have been implemented, he said.
In the last 30 years crores were spent to end the waterlogging problem in Chattogram. But to end this curse we needed to do a feasibility study first. Without this study, the problem will not be solved, Moinul Islam argued.
In the Dranaige Master Plan developed in the 90s, there were provisions for building many silt traps but none followed it and did not remove the silt regularly. There were recommendations to make reservoir at the top of the hills so that it can hold water for some times. There are 24 agencies who are involved and doing development work in Chattogram, but there was no coordination, which hindered the development, he pointed
There is an ongoing tussle between the central government and mayors of city corporations. Poor allocation of budget, bypassing the master plan in development work, lack of coordination between 24 agencies, lack of storm sewerage, unplanned construction of flyovers and shopping complexes, all these are causing severe problems, he explained.
The economist further argued that if drainage was the duty of the CCC, then why the mega projects were given to the CDA. So, the tussle between the CCC and the CDA must be stopped. Because of the tussle, in the last 10 years, the CDA has implemented projects, which could not meet the need of the citizens. The CDA constructed flyovers that are completely underutilised, he pointed out.
There are debates in Chattogram as to what extent the flyovers are easing the city’s traffic congestion. The CDA has constructed a flyover in Bahaddarhat area, one of the high traffic-prone zones of the city. The 1.5-km-long flyover cost BDT 145 crore. However, the infrastructure has had little impact on the city’s traffic management. It failed to mitigate Bahaddarhat’s congestion problem, he said.
The relatively lower usage of flyovers has not surprised the city’s urban professionals who are of the opinion that politicians are generally more interested in developing large visible infrastructure projects ignoring the city’s need-based development, Moinul Islam
Now, the CDA is constructing elevated expressway while experts are questioning whether it is necessary or not. Whimsical projects have been done for long and citizens are the victim of such unnecessary addition to their city, he continued.
The number of public transports plying the city streets is inadequate compared to the city’s needs. Moreover, the city’s future transport system not only has to be efficient but it also needs to be sustainable.
There is no fully empowered urban planning and transport planning unit in the CDA, said Moinul Islam.
Though we say Chattogram is the commercial capital but the port, which is the heart of trade and commerce, has been neglected for long. Moreover, the city is heavily dependent on the centre, Dhaka, for policy decisions. Despite being the principal seaport and the gateway of the country, key decisions involving the port city are often not taken in Chattogram. The headquarters of concerned agencies, including the ministry of shipping, chief controller of export and import and the Export Promotion Bureau are all located in Dhaka,’ he mentioned.
Constrution of Sonadia deep sea port could be a solution but the government is forcibly making Payra as deep sea port. Every year, silt would be deposited in Payra and the experts and consultants from different countries opined that per year Tk 8,000-10,000 crore would be needed to remove silt from Payra for smooth operation, which would be a huge burden, Moinul Islam
He pointed out that, ‘Payra can be a good port but definitely not a deep sea port as the draft of Payra in some places is about 5 metres, in some places 10 meters and in few places 15 meters, whereas Sonadia has the draft of more than 20-25 meters.’
Already by the fund of the CPA the development work of Payra port has been started which is an example of bad governance, the economist concluded.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Interview