Class-V student of Monipur School in Mirpur Arefin reached their Paikpara home in one and a half hours, as they had to wade through a path that normally would hardly take half an hour. The entire area, his father said, went under three feet of water after an hour and a half of rain on 2 August.
The day before, when it rained only for half an hour, class-I student of Wills Little Flower School Ranabir and his mother finally returned home at about 8pm after three hours in a crowded bus from Kakrail to Gopibagh, a distance of only 3.4 kilometres.
Angered by their suffering on a rainy day in Dhaka city, a guardian on the school compound asked: <DBL-QTS>What<SNG-QTS>s the government doing to drain out this water from Dhaka?<DBL-QTS>
In fact, a Prothom Alo investigation finds, the government has spent almost Tk 20 billion (or Tk 2,000 crore) in the past eight and a half years but no major project on improving the drainage system of the mega-city has been implemented.
However, official documents show, the entire amount was spent in setting up pump stations, construction and repairing of sewerage lines, digging canals and setting up box culverts and cleaning.
Since 2009 when the Awami League government took office, three agencies have spent taxpayers<SNG-QTS> money amounting to Tk 1.996 billion. Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority has spent Tk 6.18 billion, two city corporations have spent Tk 12.70 billion and the Water Development Board spent Tk 1.08 billion, according to official documents.
Despite these expenses, a 123 mm rainfall on 3 August left Motijheel, a relatively higher area, under two feet of water. The country<SNG-QTS>s administrative hub of the Secretariat saw massive water-logging on the day.
On 26 July, the area in front of Notre Dame College went under three feet of water.
The rainfall on 2 August resulted in inundation of Old Dhaka<SNG-QTS>s Hatkhola area, where Dhaka South City Corporation constructed a sewerage line at a cost of Tk 11.4 million only in 2015.
A shop there, Anannya Departmental Store, tried to set up its own <SNG-QTS>embankment<SNG-QTS> to stop rain waters from entering its compound but to no avail. <DBL-QTS>What<SNG-QTS>s the benefit of spending money? Whenever there was a rainfall, we faced severe water-logging,<DBL-QTS> lamented the owner, Ershad Rahman.
But WASA managing director Taksim A Khan the amount spent is a meagre one, in proportion to the requirement of the day. “In order to address traffic congestion, we need to spend a lot more money. Huge infrastructure projects need to be taken up,” he insisted.
Dhaka WASA, under a programme to clear 22 canals in the city, has spent Tk 20 million. During visits by this author to four of such canals, it was found that they had not been cleaned for a long time. Manda canal, Jirani canal, Basabo canal and Segunbagicha could hardly be recognised because of waste and establishments all around.
A canal in Kallyanpur looked more like a char (river island) but WASA consultant AKM Shahiduddin claimed that it had been excavated recently. “There is waste being dumped from houses in adjacent areas,” he pointed out.
Water management specialist of Bangladesh University of Engineering and technology (BUET) Md Mujibur Rahman said he observed in many areas in Dhaka city that old canals no more existed. “Had the canals and marshland been protected, we would have been benefited the way Hatirjheel offers a soothing experience to city dwellers,” he added.
* This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Khawaza Main Uddin.