The Financial Express

Dhaka\'s annual water woes

| Updated: October 24, 2017 19:22:47

Dhaka\'s annual water woes
A hailstorm accompanied by an 8-mm rain struck Dhaka on February 24. It clearly marked the advent of summer in the capital and elsewhere in the country. But the early-noon wind-swept rain has also given the Dhaka-dwellers a grim reminder: days of water-logging are coming. 
Meanwhile, over the last few days media reports on the scarcity of water in many parts of Dhaka have begun prompting people to prepare for the annual scourge. Like water-logging, paucity of water, too, plagues the capital every year. Over the last couple of decades, the problem has assumed the proportion of a crisis. With the fast increase in the city's population and the expansion of residential areas, water shortage cannot but take a worse turn. Figuratively speaking, life centres round water with its varied uses. But both its overflow and scarcity lead to human sufferings. Unlike many other large cities, water plays a critical role in the lives of the people in Dhaka.   
Following Wednesday's brief shower, many roads and low-lying areas in the city went under ankle-deep to knee-deep water. A photograph of a motor cyclist with his baby daughter on the front was published in The FE the following day. The bike in the photo looked like a wheel-driven small speed boat cutting across waves. The scenes amply spoke of the extent of water-logging the city-dwellers may have to undergo in the coming rainy season.
Water-logging has for decades been a yearly menace for Dhaka. In the past it used to cause sufferings to the slum-dwellers and the urban poor. The spectacle has changed. In the recent years, stagnant rainwater has also emerged as the cause of dread for the affluent as well. People living in the upscale areas in many parts of Dhaka have already been made to go through the ordeal of water-logging. Due to faulty drainage, roads in these areas as well get waterlogged after brief spells of downpour. The fast disappearance of floodplains owing to encroachment adds to the whole problem. 
Large swathes of the capital turning waterlogged are its general view in the rainy season these days. Promises from the government agencies concerned on addressing the problem are being heard year in and year out. Solutions remain elusive. All this has become a tedious ritual.  Two elected mayors are now in office in Dhaka. They have already demonstrated their intrepidity in taking initiatives to solve Dhaka's municipal problems. Both of them have vowed to make the capital a decent place to live in. Given the apparent resolve of the two Dhaka City Corporation mayors, water-logging could be fancied to be disappearing. But all this depends on the availability of funds. Inextricably linked to it is infrastructural support from the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA). 
Days of newspaper photographs and TV footage showing people's queues around public taps or WASA tank-lorries are not far. In the metropolis, a few areas are chronically affected by water scarcity. These neighbourhoods remain almost without water throughout the whole summer. Life in these areas goes literally parched. With limited water available for drinking, cooking, washing etc, many shift to the areas where water supply is normal. However, there is a glimmer of hope. The government has approved the phase-3 project of Saidabad Water Treatment Plant.
Meanwhile, groundwater level keeps rapidly falling thanks to the mindless use of pumps. Ensuring sufficient water supply coupled with creating awareness of keeping groundwater at a permissible level will go a long way in alleviating Dhaka's water crisis.
As the capital expands along with the country's march, water takes an increasingly significant role like other necessities. Both its overflow and paucity due to mismanagement interfere with smooth urban life. The authorities concerned ought not to remain oblivious of it.

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