Khulna city dwellers are facing manifold problems including water crisis, lack of proper drainage system and waste management, inadequate city bus service and shortage of parks and public spaces.
The city inhabitants said that they, like previous years, feared severe waterlogged areas in the city in the rainy season as the third-largest city of the country spanning around 45.65 sq km and an abode of an estimated 15 lakh people, has been best with problems including its declining ecosystem.
Khulna Water Supply and Sewerage Authority, or KWASA, officials said the city dwellers were now facing severe water crisis as the level of groundwater had only been going down gradually during the ongoing dry season.
The KWASA officials said that they could fulfil half of the demand of 24 crore litres of water a day in the city and dwellers sourced the rest of the water through shallow and deep tube-wells and the water layer began to fall from March and the scarcity became severe in the ongoing month of May.
They said that groundwater could be extracted from below 26 feet during all seasons in the city but now the layer had reached down to 30 feet or above and as a result most of the shallow tube-wells could not pump water.
Ratna Akhter, a small businessman and a resident of the Cemetery Road in the city, said that they could collect water from the tube-well near the cemetery from 4:00am to 7:00am and those who come to the tube-well had to wait in long queue to collect water.
‘We have to use less water than our actual need due to water crisis,’ she said.
Dwellers at areas, including Cemetery Road, Pratapaditya Road, Musalmanpara, Basupara Kabarkhana, Sheikhpara, Islamabad Community Centre, Dolkhola, Roypara Cross Road, Bayra Madhyapara, Palpara, Mujgunni, Saheber Kabarkhana and Tutpara said that they had to face torment to collect water as they could get water from tube-wells only a few hours from early morning in a day.
Long queue for water seekers are now common at the deep tube-wells in the areas, they said.
They blamed frequent installation of deep tube-wells without following the ideal method of a distance of 1000 feet between two deep tube-wells, less rain, filling up of water reservoirs as the main reasons behind the sharp fall in groundwater level.
Besides 100 pumps across the city to extract water for supply to city dwellers, the city has over 10,000 deep and shallow tube-wells to meet the city dwellers’ water demand.
According to DWASA officials, the city has 66,469 holdings while 20,000 holdings have now water supply connection and process was on to provide water connection to 10,000 holdings.
KWASA deputy managing director Md Kamal Uddin Ahmed said with anticipation that the installation of Zaika and ADB funded water treatment plant at Samantasena area under Rupsha upazila in Khulna was nearing end.
‘We hope that the works would end by June and we will be able to get 11 crore litres of water every 16 hours. It will, I believe, meet almost 100 per cent of water demand in the city,’ Md Kamal Uddin said.
According to KWASA officials, under the project water from the River Madhumati at Mollarhat in Bagerhat would be collected through a pipeline to be treated at the treatment plant and distributed among the city dwellers through seven distribution reservoirs, 10 overhead tanks and 650 km of distribution pipeline.
City dwellers said that they had to experience waterlogging in the city due to lack of proper drainage system and channels for flushing out water for the past several years. Waterlogging are common at Shantidham, Royal Mor, Sat Rasta Mor, Cemetery Road, Islampur Road, Dolkhola, Shitalabari, KDA Avenue, Khanjahan Ali Road during the rainy season.
The city inhabitants said that most of the city drains were narrow and filled up with filths while most of the canals, meant for draining water from the city, are grabbed by influential quarters.
The city has a total length of 1,165 km of drainage system, including those having width of one foot or less than that and most of them are filled with mud, plastic bottles, polythene and other materials, resulting in the hindrance in flushing out of water.
The scenario seemed almost the same while New Age correspondent went visiting Zahidur Rahman Road of Bagmara, Nirala Residential area, Rupshsa Natun Bazar and Shipyard Road at Labanchara,
The River Moyur in the western side of the city is now filled u. Its water is badly polluted and has turned into a dead canal. As a result, the logged water cannot flush out from the city easily through the river, said city dwellers as well as officials at Khulna City Corporation.
According to officials of estate department of the city corporation, rainwater is carried through 20 city canals into the Moyur and Hatiya rivers.
However, they said, most of the canals including Chharichhara, Lauri, Kolabaria, Narkelbaria, Taltal, Nabinagar, Labanchara, Matiakhali and Khetkhali canals were grabbed by local influential people who had constructed different structures and even established cattle farms on the grabbed lands, encroaching on the canals.
Local influential people constructed two dams across the River Moyur — they now served as roads to cross the river. The dams were obstructing water flow from the city, they said, adding that their construction reduced the river into a mere lake.
KCC estate officer Md Nuruzzaman Talukder, also member secretary of the technical committee for demarcation of 20 canals and the two rivers, said that they had begun the works of demarcating the rivers and canals since the first week of March and the project was nearing completion.
He said that the KCC with the help of the district administration and Khulna Metropolitan Police would launch drives after the month of Ramadan to evict the grabbers and remove the illegal structures from the canals and rivers which would ease the waterlogging situation in the upcoming rainy season.
According to a recently published UNB report multiple industries have been set up on the banks of the Rupsa and Mayur, which affected the dissolved oxygen level in the waters, turning the water toxic and jeopardising the aquaculture of the city.
The city corporation’s chief conservancy officer Abdul Aziz, acknowledging the deteriorating problem of flushing out water due to narrow drains in the city, said that the city dwellers, due to lack of awareness, had been throwing wastes including plastic, polythene, torn cloths and even sands and cements used during construction of houses into the drains.
He said that they extracted over 200 tonnes of filth and mud from the drains in one day using four excavators and hoped that the waterlogging problem would ease to a large extent this year due to the ongoing drive.
Dwellers belonging to different areas of the city alleged that they had to endure bad odour as the KCC often failed to remove wastes from the city and they often remained scattered on roads as well as in drains.
KCC chief conservancy officer Abdul Aziz said that in Khulna, households, markets, hotels and restaurants as well as the hospitals together produce about 800 tonnes of wastes a day and they had the capacity to remove 500 tonnes with their regular manpower and vehicles.
He said that they, however, were trying to provide best possible services by working extra hours with the vehicles.
He said that they had 50 containers to collect the wastes and 11 trucks, including three big ones, to carry them but five of the trucks were now were lying inactive for mechanical glitches.
Aziz said that one of the three big trucks was inactive now and the two other ones were bought in 1996 and they often become inactive due to their old age. Besides, he said, they had to face driver and worker shortage to manage the wastes.
Dwellers in the city also said that they had to face severe scarcity of parks and open spaces for their and their children’s amusements.
City corporation estate department officials said that the city had eight parks — Hadis Park on Lower Jashore Road, Golokmoni Shishu Park on Sir Iqbal Road, Jatisangha Shishu Park on Khan Jahan Ali Road, Nirala Residential Area Park at Nirala, Sonadanga Residential Park and Sonadanga Solar Energy Park at Sonadanga, Wonderland Shishu Park at Khalishpur and Linier Park at Gallamari.
Khulna unit of Jana Udyog member secretary Mahendranath Sen said that the existing eight parks lacked amenities to provide recreation for the city dwellers. Besides, the parks meant for children lacked children rides.
He demanded more parks for the city dwellers and asked the authorities to ensure modern facilities at the children’s parks for their recreational activities necessary for their psychological development.
Though the city has 15 lakh people, they have only 12 buses for the city service plying on a single route of Phultala-Daulatpur-Dakbanglaw-Rupsha. On top of that, half of the busses are now inoperative due to their age, city dwellers as well as the Khulna Motor Bus Owner Association officials said.
The working class people and the students of different colleges in the city alleged that due to lack of city service buses, Khulna inhabitants were heavily dependent on rickshaws or auto-rickshaws leading to extra expenses.
‘For people like us it poses a problem. We are forced to travel to our destinations using battery-run auto-rickshaws or rickshaws by spending four to 10 times higher on fair as we fail to avail the bus even after standing half an hour or more for one,’ said Abdul Alim, a mason’s assistant who travels to different destinations almost every day from his residence at Tootpara.
Bus Owners’ Association administrative officer Majumder Giasuddin Ahmed Zia said that most of the city service buses had become too rundown and there were buses which were being repaired at workshops.
He said that they were trying to introduce five or six new buses and they might run on city roads after the Eid-ul-Fitr.
Khulna as a city is smarting under many urban scourges. While the presence of nearby jute mills, power plants, matchstick factories, brick kilns and KCC’s dumping unit are greatly affecting its three rivers, to ensure a future for the Khulna city dwellers, one must contemplate a coordinated effort.
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