Most drains of Khulna City Corporation (KCC) have turned into garbage heaps due to unplanned waste disposal and improper waste management. City dwellers are facing environmental degradation and health risks due to blockages in the drainage system and contamination of water resources near uncontrolled dumping sites.
According to KCC, the total length of drainage network of the city is 651.50 kilometres -- of which 291.23 km are made of concrete, 55 km are half concrete and 305 km are soil drains.
Last week, this correspondent visited at least ten spots in the city to observe the drain conditions, and found most of the drains full of plastic, bottles, rags etc.
Zorina Begum, 63, has been running a tea stall at Bastuhara Colony near Sheikh Abu Naser Hospital for eight years. Her tea stall is adjacent to a large secondary drain. “I did not see any worker of KCC cleaning the drain in the last three years,” she said.
A big drain flows beside the Sheikh Abu Naser Hospital to Goalkhali via Khalishpur, which was filled up to the extent that grass and small plants were growing on them.
Abu Taher, a resident of Goalkhali, told this newspaper that lack of maintenance and monitoring of some portion of the drain has blocked water passage.
“Often the dirty water overflows on the roads that create a nuisance for pedestrians and locals,” said Abu Taher, adding that stagnant water and dumped waste have made it a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Md Abdul Ahad, Principal of Khulna Medical College Hospital (KMCH) said water stuck in blocked drains sometimes contaminate water supply line, and cause waterborne diseases like malaria, gastroenteritis, and jaundice.
Anisur Rahman, conservancy officer of KCC, however claimed to The Daily Star that the city corporation regularly cleans all drains to ease water flow and stop breeding of mosquitoes.
“It is a continuous process but shortage of manpower interrupts the process,” he said.
Over 509 employees, including 203 permanent workers, are employed in the conservancy department of KCC.
About 580 to 600 tonnes of waste is produced daily in Khulna city, of which KCC has a collection capacity of 65-70 percent, Anisur said.
“It's in our [people's] nature to dump solid waste in drains, although garbage collection points have been set up by KCC. City dwellers should change their habit and come forward to assist KCC to solve the issue,” said Anisur Rahman.
While walking along four-kilometre stretch of roads, this correspondent found three garbage collection points, two of them made of bricks and one made of steel.
Raju Sheikh, a vegetable seller of Doulatpur area, said: “It's not possible for us to walk over one kilometre carrying garbage to the nearest disposal place. If there was one nearby, I would use it often.”
“KCC is trying to establish more concrete waste containers and portable small bins to collect waste, said Anisur Rahman.
Shiraj Miah, a waste collector of Noyabati area, told the correspondent that he only collects waste from collection points, and does not have equipments to clear up drains. “I collect waste from selected point only; when small excavators are used to clean drains, I assist in the work,” he said.