WATER stagnation has remained a major concern for the capital city for years as the rain or floodwater that collects cannot drain out because of illegal grabbing of wetland and low-lying areas, flood-flow zones, canals and river land. The National River Conservation Commission has said that the capital is faced with serious stagnation for the illegal occupation of river land and water bodies in and around the city. Dhaka experiences severe water stagnation during the monsoons every year and the government and city authorities every time promise solution to the problem soon. The problem, as the National River Conservation Commission says, would not be resolved unless the water bodies, the only natural surface water drainage system, is restored and preserved. Different estimates show that about 70 per cent of the wetland and low-lying areas, flood-flow zones and canals, which worked as natural reservoir of rainwater, has been grabbed and filled up in the name of development by both government and non-governmental organisations and powerful individuals enjoying political or moneyed clout.
What is worrying is that the proposed 21 per cent of the city’s present and projected areas, which Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha, the government agency responsible for planning the development of the capital city and enforcing relevant laws to control its urbanisation, proposed to reserve as water bodies in the 2010 detail area plan under the master plan prepared in 1995, have largely been violated. Besides, river land and floodplains of the rivers circling the capital have also been grabbed, leaving the city more vulnerable to water stagnation. The government listed 7,582 grabbers in Dhaka division — with 959 grabbers in the district — in January. The list of grabbers in Dhaka, however, came to be criticised for being incomplete as it is said to have left many grabbers out and showed no encroachers in the Tejgaon, Ramna and Lalbagh circles which appear to be quite unconvincing, considering the disappearance of canals and water bodies in the areas. Such rampant grabbing of water bodies and flood-flowing zones has, as experts say, weakened Dhaka’s ability at flushing out rainwater and floodwater, which has remained stagnant in many areas in the city now. Different government agencies have so far occasionally and inadequately run eviction drives and have taken a number of big-budget projects to address the water stagnation problem in the city, but they have yielded little or no result.
The government and the agencies concerned must, therefore, realise that unless they restore the natural surface water drainage system, the problem would remain there. They must also take a holistic and unbiased approach to reclaim and preserve the occupied low-lying lands, flood-flow zones, natural canals and river land to save the capital city from water stagnation.
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