Govt must preserve water retention zones

Updated at 12:06am on September 09, 2018

IT IS alarming that water retention zones around the capital are shrinking fast, because of land grab and unplanned construction, resulting in prolonged water stagnation and environmental hazards. The Flood Action Plan and the Detailed Area Plan of the capital city identified 5,523 acres of water retention areas, 20,093 acres of canals and rivers, and 74,598 acres of flood flow zones for preservation. But the harsh reality is that almost two-thirds of the areas have already been grabbed by powerful groups and various government agencies. Reportedly, according to a Bangladesh Institute of Planners estimate, more than 2,000 acres of flood flow zones disappear every year. A study done in 2017 by Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha says that barely 1,744 acres of water retention areas around the capital exists now. The Institute of Water and Environment chair says that the disappearance of water retention areas could cause flash floods, besides increasing the duration of water stagnation. In a word, the capital is headed for serious environmental and public health crisis.
This all brings to the fore the government’s apathy and indifference to the capital city and its attachment of importance to the mercenary interests of realtors and land grabbers. Urban planners expressed their consternation that this would turn the city into a veritable jungle of concrete. Now the natural catchment areas have been filled up to make room for buildings; the minimum breathing space required for the people has been stamped out. The most objectionable part of the story is that the power of money, of a section of realtors, and greed, of some of the officials, have colluded to transform what was once a placid, idyllic metropolis into nearly an unliveable place. That is why after every light shower, life in the capital comes to a grinding halt. What raises grave concern is that in the absence of an effective monitoring on part of the authorities concerned, a number of companies have developed housing projects endangering the city environment in violation of relevant rules and regulations over the years, which have preyed on innocent clients leading them eventually to ruination.
The government needs to realise that it would be of no use to advantage and benefit any vested interests at the expense of the liveability of a city already home to about 16 million people. The incumbents also need to realise that it is only because of such unplanned urbanisation, including land development of flood flow zones, that rain water cannot recede easily straining life in the city. While it necessitates the formulation and implementation of plans to restore the water retention areas for ending its water stagnation problem, the government needs to enforce the Private Housing Project Land Development Rules 2004 stringently to address the woes of the city dwellers.