A Tk. 5,616-crore ( USD 670 million) project of the Chittagong Development Authority (CDA) to ameliorate the perennial problem of water-logging in the port city has not followed the updated drainage master-plan of the Chittagong Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (CWASA), said experts.
Experts have expressed apprehensions that if the drainage master-plan is not followed, Chittagong will not be fully rid of water-logging. CWASA had designed the drainage master-plan in 2016 to resolve the problem of water-logging in Chittagong.
The CWASA drainage master-plan contains a proposal to excavate 57 canals of the city and remove 14 lakh cubic metres of waste matter and soil from these canals. But the CDA’s plan has proposed to excavate only 36 canals and remove just 9.5 lakh cubic metres of waste matter and soil from these canals.
The CWASA master-plan intends to set up 24 tidal regulators at the mouth of 24 canals that enter the Karnaphuli and Halda, but in its plan, the CDA has proposed to set up only 12 water-regulators at the mouths of 12 canals that enter these rivers.
The experts fear that if the mouths of 12 canals remain open, tidal waters could enter the city, inundating it under tidal and rainwaters. This would be more likely to exacerbate the problem of water-logging instead of deriving benefits from the project.
CDA executive engineer Ahmed Moinuddin said, “Though 57 canals are mentioned in the drainage master-plan, considering the importance of our project, we recommended 36 canals. Basically, water-logging is created in the city because of the 36 canals. We will build 24 tidal regulators. Some of these would be built by the Bangladesh Water Development Board. Thanks to the shortage of space, the sizes of the silt-traps have been reduced.”
The CWASA drainage master-plan has proposed to construct 100km of new drains while the CDA plan has proposed to construct only 10km of new drains. In its plan, CWASA said it intends to construct nine surface sluice-gates, but this is not included in the CDA’s plan.
In the drainage plan, it has been proposed that 500km of drains would be cleaned on a regular basis, 39km of unpaved drains would be made concrete and 10-sq.-km slabs would be constructed on drains and canals in populated and hilly areas.
But the CDA has proposed to clean only 302km of drains on a regular basis and expand 15 drains. Again, it did not include the construction of slabs on drains and canals as part of its project.
Apart from this, the CWASA drainage plan includes a proposal to clean the 2.90-km box culvert of Sheikh Mujib Road, but the CDA has not included this in their project.
According to the recommendation of the drainage master-plan, a suggestion has been made to rebuild 21 narrow bridges and nine silt traps and to build 13 new silt-traps, the size of each of which is set at 2,650 sq. m. However, the CDA proposes to construct 48 bridges, six culverts and 48 silt-traps. The size of each silt-trap would be 1,080 sq. m.
To derive the benefits of the water-logging project, the CDA should follow the recommendations of the drainage master-plan, said an engineer, Humayun Kabir, who was involved in the design of the CWASA drainage master-plan as an expert.
“If the excavation of canals is not done and simultaneously tidal regulators are not implemented, the city will get inundated under tidal waters,” warned Kabir, who is a former chief engineer of the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB).
He said, “The CDA has excluded many of the recommendations of the master-plan and added some more. But we don’t know from where they have added these. We assume they will apply the recommendations of the drainage master-plan during the implementation of the project.”
On August 9, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved a project involving Tk. 5,616.50 crore to ameliorate the problem of perennial water-logging in Chittagong.
The proposed project will be implemented by June 2020. With the approval of the ‘canal re-excavation, extension, renovation and development to resolve water-logging in Chittagong city’, the government has directed that the project be implemented in an integrated manner.
The local government and rural development (LGRD), housing and public works and water resources ministries and the Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) are part of the project. The CDA alone has not been made responsible. Following the directions of LGRD minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain on August 12 and August 14, the CCC, CDA and CWASA held two review meetings.
In the observations of the meetings, it was mentioned that in the CDA’s project, the recommendations of the CWASA’s drainage master-plan were not properly followed. CCC mayor AJM Nasir Uddin will hand over the observations of the meetings to the LGRD minister.
Mayor AJM Nasir told media-persons that the agencies are responsible for ensuring the benefits of the projects reach the citizens, for whom Prime Minister has approved the project. So, the project should be taken up on the basis of the experts’ suggestions. Otherwise, there will be doubts over the benefits to be derived from these projects.
Now, if there are limitations on the CDA project, the project would have to be implemented after taking these into consideration and with coordination between various agencies. This is required to ensure that the city’s residents get rid of water-logging.
Town planner Prof. M Ali Ashraf told The Independent, “To derive the benefits from the project, the entire department that is involved should coordinate it.
If anything has been dropped, the CDA can include it. For this, the higher echelons of government should issue directions to form a mechanism with a clear set of guidelines. Coordination is essential: without coordination, it would not be possible.”