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The Day Dhaka Went Under Water

Heavy rainfall created water logging in several parts of Dhaka city causing huge sufferings of residents. Image by Sourav Lasker. Copyright Demotix (1/9/2015)

Heavy rainfall created water-logging in several parts of Dhaka city, causing huge trouble for its residents. Image by Sourav Lasker. Copyright Demotix (1/9/2015)

It was raining countrywide in Bangladesh last week: drizzles, downpours, and intermittent rains. But nothing like what the Bangladesh capital Dhaka faced last Tuesday—42 millimetres of rain in just one and a half hours. The cascading shower inundated many Dhaka streets, bringing acute suffering to city dwellers with heavy traffic jams in busy intersections. Many citizens faced immense trouble and delays with freak accidents in the water-clogged streets.

This year Dhaka was ranked the 2nd least liveable city of the world in the annual Liveability Ranking by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Dhaka's water-logging problem is chronic as the drainage system has been in shambles, with many new construction projects abounding and drainage canals blocked. Even with a short-term downpour, many of the streets go underwater quickly, and afterwards, it takes hours for the water to drain.

The frustration was evident on Twitter and other social media:

Some users, like Saifur Rahman and Shofikul Islam, shared images of the water-logged city via Youtube.

According to the Executive Director of Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA) Taksim A Khan, 26 out of the 56 water drainage canals are operational, but not at full capacity. However, if the authorities cannot ensure that rain waters are routed to proper places, this still means the problem cannot be resolved.

Standup comedian Naveed Mahbub found a reason to joke about the disaster.

Several memes making light of the rough weather became viral and were shared widely on social media (images courtesy Anis Sarker, Moja Loss and Keu Amare Mairala):

Gulistan to Gabtoli via Dhanmondi (water transport in Dhaka streets)

Gulistan to Gabtoli ferry via Dhanmondi (water transport comes to Dhaka streets)

"Glad we have become only a middle income country"  "Why?" "The water is only at the middle way of body. If we were a high income country, imagine what would happen."

“I'm glad we have become only a middle income country”
“Why is that?”
“The water is only midway up the body. If we were a high income country, imagine what would happen.”

Lucky! That I took my umbrella while going out.

Lucky that I took my umbrella while going out!

Shyamal Ghosh wrote on Facebook, urging everyone to wake up to the scale of the issue:

Not only in Dhaka, most of the cities in Bangladesh are facing (the) same problem with rain (&) flood but it seems like no one (is) there to talk about (it). Where are the environment activists, where are the city planners? Looks like nobody wants to have anything to do (with it), all are getting used to it ? […] Wake up…!

Hasibul Haque laid the facts out, explaining the reasons for the water-logging:

Bangladesh is experiencing an extended monsoon this year with 40 percent more rain than annual average, and is set to be a record amount for the last 10 years. While it is true that water-logging in Dhaka has a lot to do with illegal constructions on the rivers in and around Dhaka, there is no doubt that this extreme weather pattern is what climate scientists have been predicting all along—as the result of climate change caused by global warming.

However, Saif Kamal requested to stop blaming everything on climate change:

Yes climate change is leading to the rain, and it floods in every city but the water doesn't hold on like this! Yes, people clog drains with waste. [..]

Have we built a better drainage system? Have we learned to dispose the waste right? The rivers around are polluted by 98%.

Let's not ask petty questions but demand service delivery that are priorities.

Downpour leads to severe flooding and traffic jam in most areas of the capital city of Dhaka, Bangladesh.  Image by Sk Hasan Ali. Copyright Demotix (1/9/2015)

Downpour leads to severe flooding and traffic jams in most areas of the capital city of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Image by Sk Hasan Ali. Copyright Demotix (1/9/2015)

Brahmanda Pratap Barua Ripon also believed waste was to blame:

Most of the roads at downtown have gone almost under water, but whom to blame? Is it us who never follow waste management or the greedy builders who just aim to earn money by covering all the ponds and lakes. The funniest thing is most of the people blame the Government for this water jamming.

Mahfuz Rahman thought that every citizen shared part of the blame and was part of the solution:

I noticed last few days my facebook timeline have so many people's photo riding boat on road or such. Complain & complain everywhere.

I will say this 20% natural and 80% man made situation. This situation is applicable and will happen again and again until we stop throwing trash in street, Drain, or anywhere where we shouldn't.

It remains to be seen how Bangladesh plans to tackle the next such downpours, which are inevitable in this geographical area. It might be that this will be the first job for the new mayors of Dhaka—as well as a test of their management capabilities.

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