Conservation of the available water retention areas and creation of more such areas are critical to resolving urban flooding in the capital, engineers of the Water Development Board (WDB) said yesterday.
Destroying low-lying retention areas on any pretext would be counterproductive, they told a public consultation on revision of Dhaka's detailed area plan (DAP) that Rajdhani Unnyan Kartripkkha (Rajuk) organised at its Dilkusha head office.
They said despite their reservation, higher authorities took away 40 out of 676 acres of water retention areas earmarked in the city's Goranchatbari, where they run a pump station to pump out accumulated storm water to keep the city free of flooding.
The land was taken for rehabilitation of those displaced for construction of Dhaka Elevated Expressway -- from the airport to Banani to Moghbazar to Kutubkhali.
In Goranchatbari, there were extensive low-lying wetlands and natural retention ponds, which Rajuk has filled up to develop the third phase of Uttara Model Town, they said.
Meanwhile, WDB owns 93km of canals in the Dhaka-Narayanganj-Demra (DND) project for flood control, drainage and irrigation, commissioned in 1968, but many points of the canals have fallen prey to encroachment, grabbing and blockage.
In his speech, DAP project director Md Ashraful Islam called upon the WDB authorities to give them a complete inventory of all the water bodies under their ownership and management so that those can be clearly earmarked in DAP for conservation.
“In the revised DAP, we will propose provisions for conservation of designated wetlands and water bodies owned by individuals, either by acquisition or transfer of development right,” he said.
Chairing the consultation meeting, Rajuk board member for planning Ziaul Hasan said it was not acceptable that they would have to endorse any "adverse use" of the land of designated wetlands and water bodies just because those were filled up by some quarters.
He also said that at least the filed-level officials should register their reservation against destruction of conservable wetlands even if the higher authorities endorsed it, as there was a prime ministerial instruction for conservation of wetlands and natural water bodies.
At a similar consultation meeting on November 1, influential realtors said there was no need for wetlands and water retention areas around the capital city for storm drainage and environmental conservation.
WDB executive engineers Md Abdul Awal Mia, Dewan Ainul Huq and Bijoy Indra Shankar Chakrabarty, among other officials, spoke yesterday, while Rajuk chief town planner Sirajul Islam was present.
Both DAP and the Structure Plan of Dhaka's master plan for a 1,528 square kilometre area strictly prohibit development of housing projects in water bodies, rural homesteads and flood flow zones that facilitate passage of water during monsoon, according to urban planners.
The current DAP suggested reclaiming over 2,500 acres of flood flow zones and agricultural land from the grip of illegal property developers, relocation of 3,000 industrial units and scrapping of 16 development projects.
But, according to leading urban planners, an estimated 83 percent of the conservable flood flow zones and wetlands have already been destroyed and grabbed by influential realtors and businessmen.
With the vital recommendations on wetland and flood flow zone conservation in the present DAP remaining unimplemented in the face of opposition from influential realtors, the government is drawing up yet another 20-year plan at a cost of Tk 33 crore for the period from 2016 to 2035 for a "planned Dhaka city".