DHAKA: Mega City Dhaka experienced diabolic water logging and agonizing grid locks during and after the first heavy monsoon rain of the year yesterday, 11 June 2015. Life almost came to a standstill as most of the roads in central Dhaka went under knee to waist deep water causing immense miseries to commuters. The woos of the city dwellers were further compounded through closing down of few roads in city center in connection with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s opening of police plaza in Gulshan area. Students, government officers, officials of public and private institutions, traders and other commuters were stranded on the city roads for hours. It was no different in other major cities of Bangladesh. Is it an associated curse of modern city development or it is poor social habits, poor city management or lack of city governance? How long the people of Bangladesh will have to suffer from these ignominies? We will confine the discussions to Dhaka city only here. The situations in other cities are not much different also.
The country was suffering from heat waves over the last few days .People were praying for rain for respite. It came and came in torrents ruining among others the second day of the lone cricket match between Bangladesh and India. It came down cats and dogs from early morning. Between 06:00 AM to 09:00 AM 59 millimeter of rain could be recorded .For many mega cities of the world having excellent and well maintained drainage system this rain cannot even cause any trouble at all. People of those cities have civic sense of not throwing their rubbish here and there and clogging the drainage system with solid wastes. City Corporations and municipalities also have well monitored drainage maintenance. Dhaka city does not have well-coordinated metropolitan governance. City Mayoral offices In Dhaka and other metropolitan cities of Bangladesh in the truest sense have very little control other than watching and guessing. WASA, DESA, DESCO, T&T, Titas, PDB, PWD have their own administration and development programs. The drainage system is far inadequate and whatever exists gets clogged from poor waste disposals and management. Even moderate shower causes water logging and people suffer.
On that very day Prime Minister inaugurated Police Plaza, a multistoried commercial building, jointly built by Bangladesh Police Welfare Trust and Concord Group at Gulshan-1. It is a centrally air-conditioned shopping complex and offices equipped with modern facilities. The 12-storey building having the foundation of 16-storey one has been built on nearly one acre of land with the Concord Engineers and Construction Limited as the constructing firm. For securing Prime Ministers movement some roads in city center were closed for traffic adding to the terrible traffic congestions in other roads, lanes and by lanes. On normal office days city traffic crawls in office hours. After such rain unusual grid locks have now become a part of Dhaka life despite government organizations investing tax payers’ money every year in updating drainage system, excavating canals and rivers. Many experts give many high sounding views and opinions generously in Television Talk shows but situation remains the same.
Dhaka is blessed with four rivers Buriganga, Shitlakhya, Turag and Balu encircling the city. Even these could not be freed from illegal occupations, dredged properly and connected through re-excavated canals crisscrossing Dhaka. If these could be done there is no reason why even higher intensity rain should cause any issue. If the drainage system is really well planned and well maintained rain water should drain out within an hour and so.
But another major problem is waste disposals. Citizens are not at all conscious and responsible in disposing wastes; neither could Municipal Corporation implement a planned waste disposal system practiced in all modern cities. Drainage system gets clogged and consequently water logging creates nuisance.
On this particular occasion road closure for PM’s program added to the woos. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is a very conscious and practical person. She could inaugurate police Plaza from her office through video conferencing. She was not required to go to Gulshan physically. Wonder why her advisors could not plan it that way. We hope in future till Dhaka road communication improves through Metro Rail, Elevated Express Highway , Rapid Bus Transit and couple more flyovers ,VVIP movements at peak hours of the day should be better planned.
Addressing The Menace For a Permanent Solution
Now Dhaka has two elected mayors who have already shown some commitments and appear to have plans and vision. Bangladesh is marching on a vision 2021 for reaching mid income country. Capital Dhaka is the mirror of the country. We know many government organizations are implementing several mega infrastructure development projects in Dhaka. Some of these are even monitored from Prime Ministers office. We are sure the two mayors will soon find the absence of Metropolitan Governance. Mayors office must have reasonable control over all infrastructure development activities and operation in Dhaka City and surrounding. What city fathers can do if sons and daughters have no accountability to the two fathers in City North and South? Let there be a monitoring and evaluation cell in both city council where there be representatives from each stake holders including environmentalists, civil society representatives, law enforcing agencies. These M&Es should remain as watch dogs for policing all development activities done in time and according to approved standards and procedures.
Public Must Act Responsibly:
People living in the city must act responsibly. Rubbish disposal must be disciplined and any violation must be punished. Two city councils in one or two suburbs each in their area can immediately introduce under close monitoring identified three different waste disposal bins for solid wastes, kitchen wastes and garden wastes. Solid wastes can be recycled and other wastes can be disposed properly. Depending on overcoming the teething problems in one year entire Dhaka can come under disciplined waste disposal system. Print and electronic media can run public awareness programs bringing celebrities promoting city cleanliness. Schools and academic institutions must make sure that their wards appreciate the valuses of city cleanliness.
Recovery of City Canals:
Like Hatirjheel other major canals must be cleaned and developed engaging all stake holders in a planned manner. We know our population is a huge problem. But we have seen In Dhanmondi, Gulshan, Uttara greater section of the population have become health conscious. If city mayors can initiate canal recovery drives along with concerned government organizations at least major canals can be recovered and cleaned in two years.
Rivers around Dhaka City:
London, Venice, Luzern, Amsterdam, Melbourne, Sydney and many other major city lives are beautified by their rivers. Dhaka is blessed by four rivers. We are aware that a major project of city circular water way and road construction is in agenda for several years. It can be extended to city circular railway, city gas ring main, and city circular power grid. We are sure there won’t be lack of finance in a properly conceived and structured mega project. But the bottom line is freeing the four rivers from illegal occupation from politically blessed grabbers. Judiciary directives are there but administration cannot implement for political interference. It seems that a Hatirjheel type project developing initiative should be launched under the direct control of PMO.
PM Hasina deserves lot of appreciations for leading the country through personal examples. She has encouraged the nation to dream a really developed Bangladesh by 2021. But looking at the miseries of city dwellers that experienced on 11 June 2015 people have genuine apprehensions about what future holds for country’s capital if these situations are not confronted now through sustainable solutions. Let two City Mayors act as two eyes of the city for a beautiful Dhaka by 2021.
The priorities are
• Setting up of Metropolitan Governance for letting City Council regulating all infrastructure City development activities. Let there be a co-ordination council comprising of all stake holders under the stewardship of mayors in City Councils
• Freeing 30 of the 47 identified city canals from illegal occupations and regenerating these following the model of Hatirjheel.
• Introduce planned well-coordinated waste disposal system with provisions for punishment for violation. Municipal Corporation must ensure proper garbage disposal from all markets and public places through proper policing.
• Freeing four rivers from grabbers, carrying out capital dredging, developing city circular river, road, rail, gas and electricity grid ring mains.
BDST: 0855 HRS, JUN 12, 2015