Buriganga recovery begins this week
The Water Development Board (WDB) after many months of delay has finally selected contractors under the Buriganga River Restoration Project to begin dredging parts of the Buriganga and Turag to increase their navigability.
Insiders say the WDB selection of several contractors is now awaiting approval of the water ministry. The board would immediately issue work orders after the approval, which is likely this week, they add.
Directed by the prime minister, the WDB undertook the Tk 944.09 crore project last year to salvage the lifeless Buriganga that has been battered by industrial waste, especially tannery waste from Hazaribagh for decades.
The project, scheduled to be completed in 2013, aims at reviving the Buriganga by diverting water from the Jamuna. The Jamuna water would be brought into the Turag and Buriganga through the New Dhaleshwari in Tangail and Pungli and Bangshi rivers involving 162 kilometres of waterways.
WDB officials yesterday said the first phase of the project would kick-start with the aim to dredge and clear 23 km of waterways in the Buriganga and Turag. This phase emphasises increasing navigability in the waterways for Dhaka circular waterways.
"The tender process suffered delay because most contractors could not ensure dredgers," said a high official. "We are expecting bigger participation of contractors in the next phase as many contractors would be prepared to supply equipment by then based on the first round of tender."
Before the WDB launched its restoration work, the government had conducted a survey of the rivers and the Institute of Water Modelling is now updating the survey data.
On the other side, the water board is designing sluice gates on the Jamuna near the Bangabandhu Jamuna Bridge from where the waters would be diverted to the Buriganga.
The WDB is also preparing tender for dredging of another 15 km waterways in Pungli and Bangshi rivers.
"Our aim is to divert 300 metre cubes of water per second from the Jamuna to the Buriganga during the lean season. Currently, the project may not have gathered momentum, but by next year there will be a lot of activities," said the high official.
Under the restoration project, the WDB would remove seven crore cubic metres of waste and silt from the 162 km waterways. Majority of this silt would be removed manually, while about 1.5 crore cubic metres of silt will be removed by dredging.
Side by side with implementation of the project, the government would have to ensure relocation of the Hazaribagh tanneries to Savar. The relocation is vital, but it has remained stalled for several years due to delay in setting up a centralised Effluent Treatment Plan in Savar so that these industries do not cause large-scale water pollution in future.
Pollution in the Buriganga is so acute that the river has no marine life for many years and its water poses high health hazards. Besides, Dhaka dwellers have also been deprived of using more surface water. Dhaka's overreliance on the subsoil water has caused an alarming depletion of water table.
While the leather sector brought home hundreds of millions dollars in export earning over the decades, its pollution took its toll on the fish resources, the economic value of which had never been calculated.
The tanners also avoided taking any responsibility in treating their waste till recent years.