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2 August, 2017 00:00 00 AM
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Dealing with water logging

It is time for action both on the part of the regulatory bodies and the people to unite to tackle the challenges posed by the changes in climate to save our country for the future generations
Masihul Huq Chowdhury
Dealing with water logging

We are presently going through a very heavy monsoon. In fact, the rain this year started as early as late winter. We are witnessing water logging in the capital city Dhaka and port city Chittagong almost at the full brink of floods witnessed in the later decades of last century. The country has experienced a rapid economic prosperity with GDP growth of around six percent in last two decades. The pitfall of this economic growth is the unplanned urbanisation. The largest delta at the confluence of mighty Ganges, Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries that is facing immense challenges due to climate change. Its geophysical position coupled with highly dense population, limited resources and dependence to nature makes Bangladesh a hazard-prone country with many subsequent catastrophic events like floods, cyclones and salinity intrusion. The poor are the most affected by the climate extremes and have very little capacity to cope with the risks.

Bangladesh is already experiencing the impacts of climate change through irregular rainfall patterns, floods, flash floods, cyclones, saline intrusion, drought, sea level rise, tidal surge and water logging. Poor communities in the coastal areas of Bangladesh are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and extreme climatic events with environmental degradation. The northwestern part of Bangladesh is experiencing successive drought and acute water shortage, pushing agriculture dependent communities further into poverty. In the central zone and northeast, increased and prolonged flood, flash flood and river erosion are causing unprecedented loss of livelihood and assets. Structural causes are one of the main culprits behind the problem of water logging. Rapid urbanisation, unplanned digging of roads for maintenance purpose, unplanned and unsecured drainage system, shrinking of natural drainage and wetlands due to unauthorised land filling and illegal construction over canals is all contributing to water logging. Constant land grabbing is leading to the blockage of natural filtration of rainfall, thus, adding to the problem at hand.Improper management is another major contributor. Governing authorities do not have any long term, coordinated plans to address the problem of water logging. The government has failed to maintain any control over unauthorised and unplanned development that is occupying canals and water bodies in and around cities. They do not even bother to supervise the digging of roads during monsoon by WASA, Rajuk, City Corporation and other private developers.People of mega cities like Dhaka, Chittagong and other populated cities have valid reasons to be worried as it is they who suffer from problems caused by water logging. Even due to slight rainfall, roads sometimes become unusable. For example, after slight rainfall, many areas of Dhaka like Mouchak, Farmgate, Dhanmondi, Bijay Sarani and other areas get completely inundated. This scenario is not only common in Dhaka, but also in other populated cities in Bangladesh. As there are no potholes or proper manholes on many streets of the cities, it becomes difficult for drivers to drive their automobiles. In such circumstances, one can easily imagine the sufferings of pedestrians on a rainy day. On the other hand, CNG and rickshaw drivers exploit the situation demanding higher fare.

As the population of Bangladesh keeps growing faster, the mega cities are unable to meet the demands of the new population. Moreover, unplanned construction works are making the drainage problems more severe. Thus, water logging is not only a burden on the inhabitants of Dhaka and other cities, but it also creates adverse social, physical, economic and environmental impacts. Disruption of traffic movement, damage of structures and infrastructure, loss of income potentials are the effects of water-logging on city life.

Two devastating cyclones, cyclone Sidr in November 2007 and cyclone Aila in May 2009 that hit the coast of Bangladesh gave a glimpse of the challenges waiting for the country in the near future. While the loss of lives during the cyclones were reduced, the destruction to infrastructure, ecosystem and livelihood would take many years to recover, making the long-term impact of climate change visible with declining living conditions for the coastal communities. Hundreds of thousands of coastal improvised communities have already been displaced and pushed into extreme poverty without any livelihood opportunity and shelter. Millions more will follow if the sea level rise and saline water intrusion continues to move upward in the inland. A 45 cm rise in sea level will not only affect the vast coastal ecosystem and hamper agriculture and food production, it has the potential to dislocate about 38 million people from 20 coastal districts. The climate-induced displacement will create new housing, livelihood and settlement challenges as well as enhance competition and conflict over scarce resources including land, water, fisheries and forests. Rural to urban as well as cross boarder migration will continue in the slums without adequate income, food, water, shelters and basic amenities.

In the face of mounting debate on the disastrous effect of greenhouse gases, scientists agree on the other hand that as a natural process the effect makes life on earth possible. This is a process by which various gases act like the glass of a greenhouse, trapping heat near the earth's surface. The greenhouse gases are naturally occurring and include carbon dioxide, methane, water vapour and other trace chemicals. But it is now known that man-made chemicals have caused a massive build-up of greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere. Precisely true, human activities are changing and enhancing the greenhouse effect. We are, so to say, thickening the walls of the greenhouse. And those activities that contribute to the build up of these gases include the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, certain agricultural activities and industrial practices. Scientists have warned time and again that this sort of profligacy with nature, this wanton destruction of forest wealth will only invite grim and disastrous consequences for us like the colossal deluge we have witnessed in 1988, 1998, 2004 and the most recent one.A cursory look at the world consumption of fossil fuels will reveal that we are adding a net three billion tons a year of carbons to the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide, methane and chlorofluorocarbons popularly known as CFCs. The world population that now stands at almost six billion will double in another 40 years from now. To combat the pollution problem associated with population boom and industrialization, vis-a-vis the global warming caused by greenhouse effect, we need trees and a lot of them, to absorb the carbon produced by such growth. Countries irrespective of their position in the globe need at least 25 per cent as forest zone to sustain life without disastrous environmental hazards. In Bangladesh this ratio has now come down to seven percent because of our senseless action of cutting down trees without replenishing them. Reports have it that chopping down of trees in the Madhupur forest, Cox's Bazar, Sylhet and the mangrove forest of the Sundarbans, often with official patronage in exchange of hefty kickbacks continued unabated till before the take over by the present caretaker government.

What actually happens in the warming trend in the aftermath of the carbon accumulation in the atmosphere? Sunlight is always falling on the earth, the laws of physics decree that the planet has to radiate the same amount of energy back into space to keep its books balanced. The earth does this by sending infrared radiation out through the atmosphere, where an array of molecules (best known as carbon dioxide) form a kind of blanket, holding outgoing radiation for a while and warming the earth surface. The molecules are similar to the glass in a greenhouse, which is why the warming process is called greenhouse effect.

The greenhouse effect is nothing new; it has been operating ever since the earth formed. Without it, the surface of the globe would be rigid 20 degree centigrade, the oceans would have frozen, and no life would have developed.It is worth mentioning that eight Nobel laureate economists supported by 2400 of their colleagues made it known to the world as early as 1998 that this one sided story does not provide a true picture of the impact on the US economy in implementing the treaty It is true that costs of reducing greenhouse pollution are not insignificant since these include costs of research and development , new technology and job loss in a few specific field of the economy but it is also true that more balanced economic analyses anticipate substantial economic benefits including cost saving from increased efficiency, improved competitiveness, job gains and increased investment in several high-tech sectors of the economy. The Kyoto Protocol set out binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for 38 developed countries. The countries accepted varying targets based on the principle of “differentiation” which recognises that some countries are more capable of reducing their emissions than others because of how they produce and reduce their energy, their access to clean technologies and their relative levels of pollution, among numerous other factors.

The protocol restricts emission of six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluoro carbons (PFCs)and sulphur hexafluoride. Bangladesh is one of the most populated countries in the world. As the growth of the urban population increases at an exceptionally rapid rate, its cities are being unable to cope with the situation due to its internal resource constraints and management limitations. In recent years, the mega cities of Bangladesh, such as Dhaka and Chittagong have faced extensive water logging during the monsoon (May to October). Common problems during this period are increase in water pollution, traffic congestion, air and noise pollution, solid waste disposal, etc. This is not only a problem in Dhaka, but also in other cities such as Chittagong, Khulna, Barisal and other populated and less populated cities which have all been cruel victims of water logging. In order to eradicate this problem, natural drainage system has to be restored. Road construction and other public facility based work should be undertaken at proper times and must be finished before the arrival of the rainy season. Unauthorised filling of canals must be stopped, and those responsible must be punished. The government should take proper measures to ensure these criterions are being fulfilled. It is up to our honourable government to immediately address the problem and relieve the population of cities such as Dhaka and others from the serious sufferings they have to endure because of water logging. It is time for action both on the part of the Government Regulatory bodies and us to unite our meaningful efforts to tackle the challenges posed by the changes in climate to save our country for the future generations.

The writer, a banker by profession, has worked both in local and overseas market with various foreign and local banks in different positions

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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