Barishal has been experiencing unprecedented waterlogging for over a week due to tidal surge from the river Kirtankhola, causing immense suffering to city-dwellers.
Most of the city areas go under water during the high tide while the low-lying areas remain waterlogged always, said the residents.
The Kirtankhola has been flowing above danger level, said Md Masum, assistant engineer of Bangladesh Water Development Board, Barishal. On August 20, its water went up to 52cm crossing the level, he added.
"We have not recorded such a measurement for the last 20 years," said the official.
About 1 lakh slum dwellers living near the river and at least 50,000 people in the low-lying areas are the worst affected. Many are struggling to make ends meet, said locals.
Manabendra Batabeyal from College Raw area said he never saw such a situation in his 80 years of life. During the high tide, his area now goes three to four feet under water, he said.
Nasim, a pickup driver from the city's Kalijira, told The Daily Star, "At present, we have to move from one place to another by boat."
Anowar Hossain, a grocer at Palashpur, said valuable items worth around Tk 50,000 of his shop were badly damaged.
During a recent visit, this correspondent found that the low-lying areas like Amanatganj, Palashpur, Stadium, Sadar Road, and Port Road went almost four feet under water. Around 12 people living in those areas said they have never witnessed such waterlogging.
They blamed the authorities' failure for the situation.
Md Aktaruzzaman, a teacher of Government BM College, said as many as 22 canals are flowing through the city. The water from the tidal surge cannot recede towards the waterbodies as most of them remain not cared for. He said those were either grabbed or filled with solid waste.
Besides, the city's drainage system is poor, he added.
Barishal city was once blessed with numerous ponds that could contain additional water, said Suvangker Chakrabary, secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, Barishal unit. Most of them do not exist now due to a lack of maintenance and encroachment, he said.
Talking to this newspaper, Tariqul Haque, former chief engineer of Barishal City Corporation, suggested re-excavation of those water bodies including the canals to improve drainage system.
Contacted, BCC Executive Engineer Md Anisuzzaman said adequate fund is needed to improve the overall situation.
"Last year, we sent a proposal of a development project costing Tk 2,615 crore to the LGRD ministry to restore all 43 canals and their beautification, but the authorities did not approve it," he said.
"Now, we will try to clean those water bodies with our own fund so that the city's waterlogging problem is resolved to some extent," said the BCC official.
CONDITION OF CITY STREETS WORSENS
Waterlogging has rendered most city roads unusable, as bitumen has broken down from the surface of the roads, causing numerous potholes. The situation is easily noticeable whenever the waters clear to make the roads visible.
Kawnia Road, Amanatganj Road, Taltoli Road, Bandh Road, Lakutia Road and Port Road were found in dilapidated condition.
According to BCC authorities, the city has 593km roads in 30 wards; of them, only 267km is bitumen-surfaced and the rest is brick-surfaced.
Executive Engineer Anisuzzaman admitted that only 30-40km roads are now in good condition, which include Sadar Road, Hospital Road, Swa Road and Bazar Road.
According to locals, Taltali Road, Rupatoli Road, BSCIC Road and Lakutia Road are bearing the brunt of the situation.
Khijir Ali, an auto-rickshaw driver from Palashpur, said he has to avoid many roads and eventually can't earn enough money. "In the last one week, my income has halved from the usual Tk 500," he said.
Echoing him, rickshaw-puller Kanchan Mia from the city's Amanatganj said passengers are mostly reluctant to commute on the damaged roads.
Martuza Abedin, councillor of ward-2, said the city roads got damaged previously and the tidal water made the condition worse.
Dilip Roy (60) from Bhatikhana area said he is unwilling to go outside amid the situation.
Ganesh Dutta, a vegetable trader from Bazar Road area, said the waste floating with the water has made the streets dirty and muddy.
Shah Sajeda, convener of Sachetan Nagorik Committee, said if the BCC had taken care of the roads since their construction, city dwellers would not have to suffer this way.
Executive Engineer Anisuzzaman said the LGRD ministry sent back another proposal of a Tk 1,100 crore road development project at the beginning of this year. "Although we corrected it and reduced cost to Tk 683 crore, it is yet to be approved," he said.
BCC Chief Engineer Nurul Islam said, "We will start repairing some roads, after the rainy weather ends." This year's incessant rain halted the work for a long time, he added.