Let the promise come true

Let the promise come true

It is now spring time. The residents of Dhaka have no reasons to worry about water-logging as the sky is crystal clear most of the days. The situation has been so during the winter months.

The residents also should have no reasons to worry about next monsoon if they have faith in the words of the man holding the portfolio of the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development (LGRD) and Cooperatives.

Talking to the newsmen on a rainy day during the last monsoon, the LGRD minister had assured the city residents of getting the Dhaka streets rid of water-logging problem 'within a year'. The problem of water-logging had turned worst during last monsoon when rainfall was more than normal. 'The problem of water-logging will not be there next year', the minister had said.

During the dry season, most people, for obvious reason, do not feel the need for remembering the dreadful scenes of water-logged streets of Dhaka.

The monsoon, however, is only three and a half months away. The question is whether the problem of water-logging would revisit the streets of Dhaka or the assurance given by the LGRD minister would come true.

Everyone would love to see the second development to take place. But will the situation be so? Will the people living in areas prone to going under ankle to knee-deep water during monsoon time get a respite?

One, however, cannot be sure about the minister's assurance coming true.

There is no denying that the task of ridding Dhaka city of the problem of water-logging is not that easy. It would require lots of money, efforts and sincerity. Even those would not be enough to make things right in many areas.

The problem of water-logging in Dhaka city was not created in a day or a month or a year. Rather it was the end-result of neglect and indifference on the part of the relevant agencies and callousness of a section of people living in different localities of Dhaka city for decades. The agencies were just onlookers when the grabbing of natural canals that used to drain out rain and waste water to rivers adjacent to the capital took place.

Besides, many large water bodies were lost to grabbers. Despite enactment of laws and rules to stop such grabbing, the situation has not improved. The agencies responsible for enforcement of the provisions of the laws and rules concerned themselves are still giving approval to construction plans of both public and private parties in water bodies located in different parts of Dhaka city. The Bhasantek beel or Shaheen Lake is a glaring example of gross violation of the protection and preservation of water-bodies law enacted in 2000.

Restoring a good number of canals through the eviction of the grabbers would not be possible under the prevailing circumstances even with best of efforts. Then again, excavation of new canals or construction of drains to flush out rain water is not possible for a number of limitations, the lack of space being at the top.

Besides, the government does not have any agency capable of managing the problem of water-logging and doing the needful for building a network to flush out rain water during the rainy season.

The Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (DWASA), an agency under the control of the LGRD ministry, is officially responsible for looking into the problems of water-logging in Dhaka city. But it has failed utterly in its job. The incumbent head of DWASA in a number of meetings expressed his organisation's unwillingness to shoulder the responsibility and invited the Dhaka City Corporations to take over. The LGRD minister was also present at one such meeting.

The drainage division of DWASA has been sitting idle for many months and its officials and employees do not have any work to do except for taking their salaries and allowances on time, according to media reports.

So, one can well guess the state of the drainage system of Dhaka city with such a reluctant operator in place.

At least one individual, the late mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation, Annisul Huq, was very serious about solving the problem of water-logging. He sincerely tried to make coordinated efforts to reduce the sufferings of Dhaka during the monsoon.

When the LGRD minister made a promise to rid the city of water-logging problem within a very short time, he surely had some plans in mind to reach the objective.

However, for meeting the objectives, it is important for at least three organisations--- DWASA and north and south city corporations---to draw up plans and implement the same jointly and with due seriousness. They need to shun bureaucratic complexities and favouritism to evict grabbers of canals and drains, no matter how powerful they are, politically or otherwise. It is not possible to do all work within a short time. But that the government is serious about the issue needs to be visible.

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