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Improve urban waterways management in Chattogram city

Published : Saturday, 21 July, 2018 at 12:00 AM  Count : 562
Md Mustiafiz Al Mamun

Almost all the ancient civilisations were developed depending on the availability of water resources for their livelihood, transportation and economic purposes. Watercourses are not only crucial for urban environments but, also important to the urban development and the development of surrounding areas. The availability of water performs as a vital role in the shaping of societies and economy. Especially, agriculture, transportation, water-based trade/business, even tourism development sectors are significantly encouraged by water-based land development.

Today, many Asian cities have embodied that example of urban settlements in different water-based sources. Afterwards, some cities move to inland due to an increase in population and economic improvements but struggle with the issues of water. Although we may never return to living along waterways, the urgency is needed to deal a reasonable relationship with water addressing waterfront development (e g protecting or restoring channel, water and green infrastructure development) in urban waterways is adaptive management to mitigate urban storm-water runoff including waterlogging issue later on.

In Bangladesh, the capital city Dhaka has ranked the least unliveable city in the world by the report of Economist Intelligence Unit of 2017. In fact, worst scenarios have witnessed in Chittagong (it is a trade capital and the second largest city of Bangladesh and also ancient coastal port city recorded at 4th BCE). The city of Chittagong is located in the tropical region, where heavy rainfall of the summer season and tidal water stream as a general characteristic have been there for centuries. Annual rain fluctuates between 2100mm and 3800mm, of which 2400mm occurs only during the monsoon.

On the other hand, waterlogging is a comparatively most alarming phenomenon from last decade or so, which has negatively impacted the urban environment, especially turned out to be a significant threat to local business, wholesale markets which are in the line of canals. Such canals (Khal) are Chaktai Khal and Rajakali Khal, whereas nearby Chaktal-Khatunganj area is one of the largest wholesale markets in the country with the commodity hub houses about 3000 businesses and 5000 warehouses. It is not a distant past when canals were used for shipping goods by boats laden.

As the geography of Chittagong city is placed over hilly topography where west-side has sea (Bay of Bengal), and another side has Karnaphuli River, it could be performed as downstream water flow, but not had such evidence. Surprisingly, it does not make any sense at all and building a million dollar question "Why". Every year, this city is suffering from flood and creating enormous impacts on urban life.

Consequently, the news has published and the media have telecasted during that situation. One the important article was published in a daily newspaper about the water clogging problem and its overall management entitled "sorrow of Chittagong city". But, still, no step has been taken to minimise or mitigate the water-related hazard.

From a urban planning perspective of Chittagong Metropolitan Area, different master plans were taken to create a better living environment in Chittagong in various stages (e g structural plan-1995-2015, urban development master plan-1995-2005, detail area plan-2009-2015). Unfortunately, no plan has been worked in the last 23 years, and the city has been facing several environmental hazards, especially in water-related issues like regular water-logging in an occasional spell of rain, even this scenario becomes severe in the advent of the rainy season.

Still, most of the urban waterways (e g especially historical and natural canals) and open spaces are becoming shrunk and narrow due to unplanned development measures, economic agglomeration with unplanned urbanisation, illegal high-rise buildings, unauthorized refilling and encroachment of land grabbers, and negligence of using water channel for commercial and public activities.

Meanwhile, to mitigate and minimize adverse situations, authorities had taken initiatives in different periods like extensive renovation and dredging waterways, restore wetlands, land acquisition and compensation or transfer, restriction for constructing a building adjacent to water resources in a planned manner. But all these did not work expectedly. Surprisingly, the Chittagong Development Authority (CDA) and Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) wanted to excavate new canals instead of reclaiming the old ones. Moreover, respective authorities have not suggested any proper indications or strategies for the professional bodies to integrate urban built form and space with water resources.

As a consequence, an alternative approach of contextual inclusion needs to explore the relationship between "Urban Built Environment" and "Urban Waterway" in the context of Bangladesh. Most of the developed countries, for instance, Australia, Singapore, UK, USA, and Canada have highlighted to sustainably managed water resources whereas fewer cases of developing Asian cities have addressed water-related disasters. In a socio-cultural perspective on water landscape, many cultural evaluations, identities, lifestyles, and rich heritage development pattern are outweighed all over the world. Moreover, human psychology and health are widely involved in treating healing architecture through water-green infrastructure found in the past.

Water-based landscape development can be ensured by different ways, protecting or restoring water channel and blue and green infrastructure development. Urban waterways and water sources should be adaptively managed to mitigate storm-water runoff including water logging issue. Flood management, which has been established by many urban researchers, is an effective means to reduce sufferings. Interestingly, water-based landscape development and planning framework has not a new theme for manage water resources as a sustainable way, but need to make people more responsible for using water and water resources and also ensure how professionals can create a new structure more sensitively.

Md Mustiafiz Al Mamun is Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture, Chittagong University of Engineering & Technology (CUET)

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