Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 53, Tuesday July 12, 2005





The nightmare of water-logging

During the recent heat wave that swept across Bangladesh in June, 'nearly' everyone craved for rain. We stress on the word 'nearly', as there were some people who actually didn't crave for rain. In fact, they literally prayed so that the rain God didn't make an appearance. Who are these people? Did they enjoy the heat wave so much that they prayed for no rain?

The people that we are referring to are the residents of Shantinagar. In all honesty, they didn't enjoy the heat wave at all, but they still didn't want any rain. In order to understand why they didn't want any rain, all you have to do is think about the scenario that prevailed in the area on the morning of 2nd July. In case you still haven't figured out what we mean, we're referring to the water-logging that took place in Shantingar on that day.

According to Shagufta Benazir, a schoolteacher and a resident of Shantinagar, "Shantinagar and water-logging are somewhat synonymous. If it rains for a few hours, we invariably have to experience it. Whenever water-logging takes place, life comes to a complete standstill. For this reason we usually tend to pray to God so that it does not rain."

Now, it would be wrong of us if we suggested that water-logging was simply a problem for the residents of Shantinagar. It's true that the residents of Shatinagar face the problem most regularly, but there are other areas of the city which experience the same dilemma. Mirpur, Malibagh, Khilgaon, Rajarbagh, Nawabpur, etc. are just some of the other areas of Dhaka city which have to contend with this problem as well.

Faisal Faruq, a resident of Malibagh told Lifestyle, "Malibagh doesn't face water-logging very often, but whenever it does, it usually tends to make life unbearable. Take for instance, the one on 2nd July, as on this day, the dirty water rose to such heights that it entered my reserve tank. As a result, I had to bring drinking water from the houses of my relatives."

"Mirpur usually gets affected by water-logging after a heavy downpour," said Nushrat Ahmed, a long-time resident of Mirpur. She further added, "It usually happens near the roundabout at Mirpur 10. It is no doubt frustrating when it occurs. In fact so much so, that I'm now thinking of moving to a different area of Dhaka city".

Now the question arises: What causes water-logging? In order to answer this question we spoke to a few experts, including officials of Dhaka City Corporation. According to Professor Nazrul Islam, an urban expert, "There is no place for rainwater to go. Canals and wetlands are filled up, the drainage system is clogged, causing the inundation."

"An arrangement should be there to remove the water, as our country is situated in lowlands. Authorities should preserve the wetland inside the city as rainwater reservoirs and work on the drainage system," he added.

A planning expert, Professor Mohammad Mabud blamed Rajuk for this situation. The officials of Rajuk have left no open spaces in the city, and so the rainwater has no outlet. Rajuk employees do not make building owners adhere to the plans approved by Rajuk, and this exacerbates the problem as the city has become a concrete jungle with hardly any natural ponds or lakes."

An official of Dhaka City Corporation, on condition of anonymity admitted, "With the amount of money we get from donor agencies, there should not be so much water-logging in the city. We should very easily be able to build a decent drainage system with the money given to us. But the thing is that most employees of the City Corporation are so corrupt that they do not use the money for the welfare of the city inhabitants, but instead siphon the money to their own bank accounts."

Anyway, whatever the reason for this disaster, the thing is that the residents of Dhaka city want respite from it. To solve the problem all it needs a little unity among the concerned authorities. Hopefully, the authority will soon take care of this situation. Are we being optimistic or just naïve?

By Sayeed Mahmud Nizam

Dhaka as an island

This is definitely not a travel tale, though it may sound like one. Lamha has been feverishly planning for over a year as to where and how to spend the summer vacation. Her planning included meticulously packing all the luggage, and it was all completed just as her children finished their final exams. The two young son and daughter could hardly sit still in anticipation. Sajid, her extremely busy husband, required a lengthy combination of wifely nagging as well as sweet-talking to agree to the trip. Threats were possibly added in the persuasion combo as well, which of course worked. As for the children, they can hardly contain their excitement as they performed all their newly learnt math processes to simply count down the days until they board a plane.

Sajid booked tickets with Malaysian Airlines for the first week of July. The entire year, both he and his wife have been busy with their respective work. It has put them into a repetitive and exhaustive routine that was difficult to get out of. Add to that the hot and humid weather that better resembled an African rainforest albeit without the trees. People were both burning up and melting at the same time. It would be a short but much needed relief to travel to a different climate for a change. Malaysia with its scenic islands was the perfect choice. The children were so excited they could hardly eat. They would much rather wait out the entire week and eat after they land.

The countdown ended as the plane was set to leave on 3 July. Lamha wrapped up some last minute packing, as it is one of those never ending jobs. Sajid completed some last minute briefing for the person who was left in charge of his business. The children could not sleep, and so they also did some last minute jumping around, screaming and generally raising a ruckus.

They were woken early in the morning not by an alarm clock but by screaming coming from downstairs. Looking out the window, it seemed they had somehow managed to transport their entire building to one of the islands the family was dying to visit. The entire area was submerged under water. The ground floors of surrounding buildings were flooded with rainwater that became filthy drain water. It rained all night and this was the result. The shouting that woke them up was the driver who was cursing the gatekeeper for want of anything else to do. The garage was also under water, and taking out the car was next to impossible.

The rainwater had nowhere to go and it accumulated on the streets. As a result, the people in that area also had nowhere to go. Sajid got a call from the office that incidentally required removing all files and computers to dry zones. There is no way he would leave on a trip leaving his workplace in such a state. The trip was cancelled and no one was hit worse than the kids. Their hopes were drowned by one night's rain.

Lamha tried her best to cheer them up by pointing out that they no longer need to go to Malaysia to visit the islands. They had their very own personal island right here.

This was just the sad tale of one family out of countless others who have suffered due to flooding in the previous week. In one night there was 156 millimeter of rainfall. The problem arose because of the unplanned development of the city. Lack of proper drainage as well as indiscriminate land filling means that the least amount of water will accumulate in huge puddles. Global warming just adds to the thoughts of impending doom as melting ice caps will simply add to the rising water. Then there is the pollution that helps in forming acidic rain. That way you burn under the hot summer sun, and then when it rains you burn in the acidic water. The rainy season will continue for another couple of months. The river waters will rise and the water logging in the city will also increase.

Hasan walks into the office, soaking wet with shoes in hand. He tells everyone present that the office should forget about the car pool and devise a new conveyance system using boats. His suggestions included the government issuing route permits for boats. All the other soaked colleagues had a good laugh at this.

One of the senior officers commented that it is actually not such a bad idea, especially during the monsoon. The city has a possibility of becoming like Venice where all the lanes and streets are actually waterways. The worst sufferers are the patients who require ambulance service but cannot avail it as a result of acute water logging.

By Sultana Yasmin
Translated by Ehsanur Raza Ronny


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