During this monsoon, water logging disrupts normal life in Chittagong. Due to the weeklong torrential rains many areas of the port city went to the underwater, bus services were suspended on most of the routes, left the residents to commute on rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, vans and three-wheelers, knee-high water is seen everywhere including markets and educational institutes. The residents have been stuck in their houses long days which brought sufferings untold to the life of lower income groups. Traders also shut down their shops as the roads in front of their shops got waterlogged. Children missed classes, the poor suffered as they live hand to mouth. Along with Chittagong, the water logging problems is a common phenomenon in urban life of the country including Dhaka, Sylhet, Satkhira, Jessore and Khulna districts.
Due to unplanned urbanization, lack of long tern development plan, implementation of ad-hoc projects, lack of regular maintenance, water logging problems appeared as a threat to the South and South-west part of the country. Inundation of agricultural land, reduction in production, impact on low-income group, causes unemployment, underemployment, poverty and migration are the main economic consequences of water logging issues along with adverse impact on family and households, sources of usable water, sanitation systems, utility services and recreation facilities are the social consequences.
In every year, when monsoon sets in, many areas of Sylhet city used to go under water that caused immense sufferings to the dwellers. But things have changed now. Thanks to Sylhet City Corporation and other concerned development agencies like Oxfam who joined their hands together to solve this problem.
Despite this chronic problem of water logging in Sylhet City Corporation areas, relevant authority and service providing agencies put high attention on this. In previous years, City Corporation took some initiatives to address the water logging problems, but due to lack of available resources and effective coordination with other stakeholders, those were not able to bring the expected results.
In April, 2010, a project worth BDT 110m was initiated by the Sylhet City Corporation and some steps like removing illegal infrastructures and excavating were done. However, soon after, illegal land grabbers and influential encroachers started to hinder the activities of the project and as a result SCC was forced to shut down the project, without paying attention to water logging problem.
The issue of water logging became crucial in the last Sylhet City Corporation Mayor election, which was held on 15 June, 2013. Candidates pledged to address the issue in their election campaign and promised to retrieve 11 dead canals of the city from the land grabbers. Those canals play important roles to solve water logging. Thankfully the elected Mayor is keeping his commitment and working with other stakeholders to solve this problem with utmost priority. Some projects are now being implemented to address water logging problem.
During January - February, 2014 Ward Disaster Management Committee (WDMC) conducted Urban Risk Assessment in selected wards of Sylhet City Corporation under the support of DIPECHO VII Action Plan. The assessment identified water logging as the number one problem in all the areas. The major causes include unplanned drainage systems, encroachment and illegal establishment over the drains. Moreover, lack of social awareness is also adding on that.
During 2013 - 2014 financial years, Sylhet City Corporation have prioritized water logging issue in their development plans and accordingly implemented some significant projects addressing water logging, waste management, re-excavation of water streams with the cost of approximately BDT 247 millions where SCC sets unique example of coordination.
The major project includes water streams (Chara) cleaning and new drain establishment projects by Comprehensive Disaster Management Program (CDMP) Phase - II, fund allocation for drain cleaning and maintenance by ADP, water supply, sanitation and new drain construction project by GoB and UNICEF, drain cleaning and awareness raising project jointly implemented by City Corporation and other two NGOs, drain repair with slab, footpath repairing and construction and twin pit latrine establishment projects by the supports of UPPR project, Chara cleaning, re-excavation and mobile van distribution project by DIPECHO VII project jointly supported by Oxfam and Islamic Relief.
Along with mitigation projects, SCC took mass awareness and capacity building initiatives towards eradicating water logging crisis from the city corporation areas. The activities include assessing problems through Risk Assessment process, capacity building training, mass awareness session at community, mosque, class rooms and household level, set waste dumping boxes at different points of the wards and organize cleaning campaign on a regular interval. In addition, SCC took initiative to organize awareness workshops with hotel, restaurant and hospital owners with the aim of motivating them not to throw their litters to the drain, rather in the dumping places.
The Sylhet model shows, an integrated approach is needed to reverse the consequences of water logging problem. The planning phase needs to be designed in a participatory way with the aim of contributing in long persistent water logging problem. Most importantly mass awareness is a pre requisite to get rid of this prolonged problem from the Urban Bangladesh. r
Mohammed Norul Alam Raju works as Programme Officer for Urban DRR and Md Abdul Quayyum as Media and Communication Coordinator at Oxfam in Bangladesh