Even before inauguration, a surface water treatment plant built in Beltola area to mitigate the water crisis in Barisal city has partially collapsed into the Kirtonkhola River, raising concerns whether it could be made operational at its current location at all.
In the last one year, especially during monsoon, parts of the plant's guide wall, walkway, and the pump broke down and were washed away.
According to the Water Supply Department of Barisal City Corporation (BCC), the city of over a half million people has a daily demand for 4.5 crore litres of water, while BCC can produce a maximum of 2.5 crore litres.
Built at a cost of Tk 25 crore, the plant was scheduled to start in July 2016. Another such plant is being built in Rupatali, around 7km from Beltola, with 90 percent of its construction work done. Each of the plants is able to produce 1.6 crore litres of water per day.
Jahangir Kabir Nanak, an Awami League lawmaker and then state minister for LGRD, laid the foundation stone of the Beltola plant on February 16, 2012. The plant would purify water from the river and supply it to the city residents.
The Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE), which sees water supply and sanitation issues of the whole country except for Dhaka, Chittagong and Narayanganj cities, has built the plant and is supposed to hand it over to the city corporation.
Talking about erosion, Executive Engineer of Water Development Board (WDB) in Barisal Abu Sayeed said there should be at least a 100 feet distance between any establishment and the river bank; but in this case, the plant was built just on the bank of the Kirtonkhola.
He also said the establishment was built without taking their permission.
About the matter, a BCC engineer said they did not know why permission was not taken from WDB; it was the duty of the ministry concerned to get authorisation.
Talking to The Daily Star, Executive Engineer Manirul Alam Swapan of BCC's water supply department said the city corporation was yet to receive the custody of the plant from DPHE, but the plant had already collapsed partially.
Asked why the plant was not handed over yet, SM Shohidul Alam, executive engineer of DPHE in Barisal, said BCC owed a Tk 22 core bill to the West Zone of Power Distribution Company Ltd, so the electricity line was cut off. Without electricity, they cannot run the plant on a test basis, hence unable to hand it over, he said.
Amzad Hossain, executive engineer of division-2 under the West Zone Power Distribution Company, said, "We asked the BCC authorities to pay the arrears in instalments, but they failed to do so." He said a new electricity connection would not be given to the plant unless the dues were paid.
BCC's Chief Executive Officer Md Wahiduzzaman said they were able to pay up to Tk 1 crore in the first instalment but the power distribution company wanted Tk 2 crore to establish a supply line to the plant.
He said if the plant went into operation, BCC would get more consumers and more water bills, with which they could pay the dues.
Meanwhile, considering the present situation of erosion, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association's (BELA's) local coordinator Lincon Bayen said it would not be wise to start operation of the plant at the place because the whole area might be eroded. He urged the authorities concerned to shift the plant to a safer place soon.
WDB, however, said it would build a protection embankment to save the plant.
The "Kirtonkhola River Erosion Protection Project", worth Tk 31 core, was initially approved and waiting for final endorsement by Ecnec or Executive Committee of the National Economic Council, said Abu Sayeed, WDB's executive engineer.
Under the project, a 4.5km protection embankment will be constructed from Chakawa to Charbaia, and there will be a capital dredging of 5.5km in the river, he said.
The official said the WDB authorities already dumped 1,000 sand bags in the affected area last month to save the plant.
BCC officials said doing some repairs and building an embankment could save the plant and make it operational.