Sylhet City Corporation failed to resolve the waterlogging

Anwaruzzaman Chowdhury, Mayor of Sylhet

Anwaruzzaman Chowdhury, Mayor of Sylhet

For the past 14 years, the city of Sylhet has been the focus of numerous drainage reform projects aimed at mitigating waterlogging and flooding. Despite a staggering investment of approximately 11 billion rupees, the city continues to experience severe waterlogging, particularly during heavy rains. The recent flooding in June 2024, exacerbated by Cyclone Remal, has brought the issue to the forefront once again, raising questions about the efficacy and transparency of the ongoing projects.

Historical Context 

Since 2009, the Sylhet City Corporation (SCC) has undertaken various initiatives to address the city's drainage issues. These projects, which include the excavation of ditches, construction of retaining walls, and installation of U-type drains and walkways, were expected to provide relief from waterlogging. However, despite these efforts and the significant financial outlay, the city's drainage system remains inadequate.

Current Situation

The recent flooding, triggered by Cyclone Remal and subsequent heavy rains, has highlighted the persistent problem. Key areas of the city, including residential zones and important facilities like Osmani Medical College Hospital and the Fire Service and Civil Defense offices, were submerged. City dwellers, already weary from past experiences, expressed their frustration and anger as their homes and businesses were inundated.

Financial Overview 

According to SCC sources, the city has spent over 1,078 crore rupees on drainage reform projects over the past 14 years. In 2024 alone, 5.5 million rupees were allocated for the construction of three new drains, with an additional 55 crore rupees for ongoing projects. Recently approved projects amounting to 300 crore rupees are set to begin, promising further improvements. The Water Development Board has also invested 55 crore rupees in the last 18 months for excavating the urban sections of the Surma River.

Analysis of Failures

Despite these extensive financial commitments, the drainage system's performance remains subpar. Experts and city residents have pointed out several issues contributing to the failure:

Unplanned Development: Environmentalist Ashraful Kabir from Bhumisantan Bangladesh criticizes the unplanned nature of the development projects. Canals and ponds, crucial for natural water drainage, have been filled in, and new drains lack proper outlets for rainwater.

Maintenance and Garbage Management: Many of the constructed drains are clogged with garbage, preventing efficient water flow. The SCC has initiated cleaning operations, but the efforts are often insufficient and inconsistent.

River Management: The Surma River, which is essential for draining rainwater from the city, is often filled to capacity, exacerbating waterlogging during heavy rains.
 
Lack of Transparency: Faruqe Mahumd Chowdhury, President of Citizen-Sujan Sylhet for Good Governance, questions the transparency and implementation of the projects. He calls for a detailed public accounting of how the funds have been spent and the actual outcomes achieved.

Official Responses

SCC Chief Engineer Noor Azizur Rahman defends the projects, claiming significant improvements have been made. He acknowledges that while heavy rains still cause temporary waterlogging, the situation resolves more quickly than in the past. Rahman attributes the recent severe flooding to extraordinary circumstances, including both heavy rainfall and river flooding. He emphasizes the need for public cooperation in maintaining cleanliness and proper garbage disposal.

Moving Forward

To address the persistent waterlogging issues, several steps are necessary

  1. Comprehensive Planning: Future projects must be planned with a holistic approach, considering the natural topography and existing water bodies.
  2. Regular Maintenance: Establishing a consistent and thorough maintenance routine for drains and canals is crucial.
  3. Public Awareness: Educating the public on proper waste disposal and engaging them in maintaining the drainage infrastructure.
  4. Transparency and Accountability: Ensuring transparency in project implementation and spending, with regular public updates and audits.
  5. River Management: Enhancing the capacity and flow of the Surma River through dredging and other measures to prevent overflow during heavy rains.

The situation in Sylhet is a stark reminder that infrastructure projects must be executed with careful planning, regular maintenance, and transparency. The significant financial resources allocated to drainage reform in Sylhet should have resulted in better outcomes. As the city continues to grow, it is imperative that the lessons from the past 14 years guide future efforts to ensure a resilient and sustainable urban environment.

   


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