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Water logging is a history now in Sylhet

July 8th, 2014 by Posted in Resilience
Norul Alam Raju, Sonya Syafitri and Abdul Quayyum
Rally for mass awareness Photo: Iffat Zerin Haque.

Rally for mass awareness
Photo: Iffat Zerin Haque.

In each year when monsoon sets in, water logging in many areas of Sylhet city and its suburbs was a common scenario for the dwellers that caused immense sufferings to them. Busy city roads used to go under water even after light to moderate rainfall due to lack of proper drainage system for long. Heavy rainfall sometimes caused the kitchen markets inundated. People at the markets had to wait for hours as most of the vehicles stopped running on the roads due to water logging. Traders also shut down their shops as the roads in front of their shops got water logged. Children missed their classes, the poor suffered as they live hand to mouth. Life in Sylhet city was unbearable due to water logging problem.

But things have changed now, Thanks to Sylhet City Corporation, District Administration and other concerned development agencies like Oxfam who joined their hands together to solve this problem.

‘Water Logging’ got high priority in the Mayoral election

Despite this chronic problem of water logging in Sylhet City Corporation, relevant authority and service providing agencies didn’t pay much attention to this. Although 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, shortly afterwards, 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 took place 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.

 Urban Risk Assessment (URA) identified ‘Water Logging’ as the major problem in Sylhet

During January – February, 2014 Ward Disaster Management Committee (WDMC) conducted Urban Risk Assessment in selected wards of Sylhet City Corporation with technical support from Oxfam and its local partner VARD under DIPECHO VII Action Plan. The assessment identified water logging as the number one problem in all 8 wards where URA had been conducted and recognized the major causes of water logging problems.

Among those, unplanned drainage systems, encroachment and illegal establishment over the drains are also identified as major causes.  Moreover lack of social awareness is also added on that.

Cleaning Drainage system under Oxfam and SCC initiative. Photo: Iffat Zerin Haque

Cleaning Drainage system under Oxfam and SCC initiative. Photo: Iffat Zerin Haque

 DIPECHO –VII action plan prioritized water logging problems at the city corporation level and took various initiatives like small scale mitigation supports and awareness interventions to address the problem.

 The Major Projects Implemented by the CC for Elevating Water Logging Problem

During 2013 – 2014 financial years, Sylhet City Corporation have prioritized water logging crisis in their development plans and accordingly implemented some significant projects addressing the water logging issue, waste management, re-excavation of water streams, etc with the cost of approximately BDT 247 millions.

 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 in ADP, water supply, sanitation and new drain construction project by GoB and UNICEF, drain cleaning and awareness raising project jointly implemented by City Corporation, CNRS and SEVRON, drain repair with slab, footpath repairing and construction and twin pit latrine establishment projects by the supports of UNDP’s UPPR project, Chara cleaning, re-excavation and mobile van distribution project by DIPECHO VII project jointly supported by Oxfam and Islamic Relief.

 Mass Awareness and Capacity Building helps to eradicate Water Logging Crisis:

Female volunteer distributes awareness message  Photo: Iffat Zerin Haque

Female volunteer distributes awareness message
Photo: Iffat Zerin Haque

Along with the implementation of small scale mitigation projects, DIPECHO VII interventions mulled over mass awareness and capacity building initiatives towards eradicating water logging crisis from the city corporation areas. The activities include conducting URA, assess the problems, documentation and advocacy to solve those, capacity building training, mass awareness at community, mosque, class rooms and household level, distribute waste dumping boxes at different points of the wards and organize cleaning campaign jointly with the city corporation. All these awareness raising activities contributed for keeping the areas clean, motivate community not to throw their litters to the drain and inspired City Corporation to increase their effort to continue cleaning activities at the affected areas.

A group of Urban Volunteers distributing awareness messages. Photo: Iffat Zerin Haque

A group of Urban Volunteers distributing awareness messages. Photo: Iffat Zerin Haque

Finally, it can be said that if a holistic approach with all relevant stakeholders and proper coordination among the service providing agencies can solve this problem. Most importantly mass awareness is a prerequisite to get rid of this prolonged water logging problem.

The report was prepared with support from local partners in Sylhet


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