Coordination among agencies key to solving waterlogging: AKM Rezaul Karim

Ferdous Ara . Chattogram | Published: 02:25, May 03,2019


AKM Rezaul Karim

Drainage management is not an individual management, so an integrated management system needs to be developed following the drainage master plan. The coordination of five agencies — Chittagong City Corporation, Chittagong Development Authority, CDA in short, Chattogram WASA, Bangladesh Water Development Board, or BWDB, and Chattogram Port Authority, or CPA — is needed otherwise water logging would not be solved and the citizens would continue to suffer, said AKM Rezaul Karim, chief city planner of Chittagong City Corporation, or CCC.
He suggested coordination among the concerned government bodies to address the problem.
The port city had its special characteristics. So, we need to focus on these special features if we want to solve waterlogging. The north and west part of the city are hilly areas. Due to hill cutting, during rain the soil is washed down with rainwater and fills drains and nearby water bodies and cause flash flood. However, all kinds of solid wastes — domestic, industrial and medical — make the situation even worse, causing severe water stagnation in the city, said Rezaul Karim.
Secondly, he says, as it is a coastal area, because of tidal surge there is flood without any rain which was not the case before 2003-2004. After 2005, the tidal inundation took a severe turn in some areas of the Chittagong city. The situation becomes horrible when these two factors overlap, resulting in inundation of 80 per cent areas of the city, he explains.
To save people from water stagnation, firstly we need coastal embankment, which will stop seawater from entering the city. Secondly, we need to set up sluice gates at the opening of the canals, especially in Mahesh canal, Chaktai canal and Dome canal, so that during rain, water can be channelled through the canals, Rezaul Karim explained, adding that, ‘Thirdly, we need to develop a strong waste management system. People’s awareness regarding waste dumping is the most important remedy.’
AKM Rezaul Karim joined the city corporation in 1989. He said very few things had been done to facilitate the town planners of Bangladesh. Planning also needs more time. Earlier there were poor numbers of footpaths, walkways, roads, drains in the city. Gradually the CCC has constructed drains, walkways, footpaths, etc.
Hundreds of people are still living in the hill pockets of the Chattogram city, risking their lives. Hill cutting causes landslides during monsoon as the sands loosen and get washed away with rainwater, ultimately they go into the canals through drains. So, to save this unique city, which is a hilly city, from destruction, the CCC has taken initiative to construct multi-storey buildings for low income people for sustainable development. So, whatever we do we need planning — we should work in a planned way, he added. To save the canals, the CCC built walkways at Chaktai canal. It has been doing beautification, waste management, construction of footpaths etc in Chattogram city.
At present, there are 37 canals in the city. But few years ago there were more than 100 canals in Chattogram. But we had lost those canals. Illegal occupants made buildings, makeshift houses and shops by occupying the canals, Rezaul Karim pointed out. It is difficult to identify those canals right now. There are 57 recorded canals in the premier port city few years back, he continued.
In some areas, these canals have become narrow due to encroachment. The mouths of some canals have been clogged by land grabbers. Apart from this, some canals have been closed for construction purposes in some places as private owners of the land have encroached on them. The sorry state of canals and drains results in rampant inundation and water logging during monsoon, said Rezaul Karim.
To protect the Chaktai canal, the CCC constructed roads so that none can occupy the canal land. People would be able to walk and it would create mass awareness.
To ease waterlogging and the resultant sufferings, the CCC launched a month-long programme to clean drains ahead of the upcoming rainy season.
As part of the programme, the CCC cleaned drains under 41 wards of the city in phases. Waterlogging is a chronic problem in the port city and it is not possible to get rid of it in the current year. The clogged drains hinder the free flow of storm-water. To solve the perennial problem of waterlogging, the city needs a planned drainage system and the corporation is working to ensure just that.
The planners said filling up of wetlands is the key reason behind waterlogging. Water retention areas disappeared over the years causing the tidal surge to overflow in the residential areas.
More than 45 per cent roads of Chattogram city are below one metre. Due to climate change if sea level will raise 1 metre, 45 per cent low-lying areas of Chattogram city would go under water.
Few years ago the government assigned the CDA a project with a view to resolving waterlogging. If we can maintain the canal regularly, if one agency gets funding, the problems that cause waterlogging may be solved. Integrated coordination is key — if the 24 concerned agencies can share their ideas, if we can sit together every month and consult, there will soon be a possible end to waterlogging. Local government needs to ensure citizens’ wellbeing. We need to solve this overall problem of urban origin professionally and technically.
I believe ‘will power’ is a must. Most of us have been working for making profit, or for show. But, if we really want to solve the problem of waterlogging, it may take time but it can be done, said the town planner.
Town planning is a completely isolated subject, after completing education we need license to work as a planner. Unfortunately, planners are not as powerful as they should have been. As a result the master plan was not implemented. We need more time. Planner, engineers, architects, all give recommendations, but these recommendations must be implemented. At present people try to sidestep real brains, those who have the capacity to envision the future. There are many incidents in which the meritorious people being sidestepped within the agencies, he added.
If we want to end traffic management without following primary steps for solutions it would not bring any success. The CDA constructed flyovers haphazardly to end the problem of traffic mismanagement. We don’t have department of traffic management. So, an entirely new department is needed which will coordinate with the CCC, the CDA, the BRTA and police to end the sufferings of the citizens. We need to ensure safe footpaths for pedestrians, we need to rehabilitate hawkers also, he argued.
The CCC town planning department lack adequate manpower but we have been trying to give our best defying all the limitations. At present, there is one architect in the CCC but we asked for two urban planners, two architects and an IT officer from the ministry. We need Geographical Information System, which we don’t have yet. No GIS means we don’t have exact data about the present status of the all the canals in Chattogram.
The CCC respects the master plan and never acted in violation of the master plan developed by the CDA, said Rezaul Karim.

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