A ticking time bomb?
I could earn Tk 7,000 monthly. Now my daughter is the sole bread earner in the household, working at a local RMG factory. She earns Tk 5,000, half of which has to be paid as rent.
Life was never easy for 40-year-old Hosne Ara. Amid constant struggles, the 40-year-old car showroom cleaner worked hard and supported her family to the best of her ability.
However, a single unfortunate moment was enough to increase her hardship by manifolds and turn her life upside down.
On November 11 last year, Hosne Ara was returning home from her workplace at Modhya Kuni Para when three slabs of a manhole suddenly blew up around 15 to 16 feet high and fell on one of her legs.
A vent is a must for a safety tank from where the gas goes out. When we construct buildings haphazardly, many building owners shut the vent to get rid of the bad odour. In the process, they activate a ticking time bomb.
Following the momentary shock and intense pain, she had to undergo surgery and took treatment for around three months at National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopedic Rehabilitation (Pangu Hospital) with the help of locals.
The leg had to be amputated and Hosne Ara lost her job.
"I could earn Tk 7,000 monthly. Now my daughter is the sole bread earner in the household, working at a local RMG factory. She earns Tk 5,000, half of which has to be paid as rent," she told this newspaper recently.
Dhaka residents are exposed to risks of such accidents related to septic tanks or uncleaned sewerage lines. Many of these lines are not maintained properly. Some are not even constructed following proper designs, said experts.
Several incidents were reported in the last few years in different newspapers.
A three-year-old child died while four others were critically injured in a septic tank blast in the capital's Pallabi on March 27, 2018.
At least five members of a family sustained burn injuries in a septic tank blast in Dakkhinkhan's Faridabad area on November 30, 2015.
As Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa) failed to bring the entire city under a sewerage network, residents of many areas were either forced to set up septic tanks or connected their sewage lines with storm water drains.
Prof Md Mujibur Rahman of Buet said at a programme last year that 71 percent of household latrines are directly or indirectly open to drains, eventually discharging wastes to the city's lakes and canals.
He said septic tank soak pits do not work in Dhaka because of their low capacity for soil infiltration.
A soak pit or soakaway is a closed, porous chamber that is directly connected to the primary treatment unit of a residential or commercial building. It serves the function of letting wastewater coming from the septic tank to slowly soak into the ground.
Adil Mohammad Khan, former general secretary of Bangladesh Institute of Planners, said regular maintenance of septic tanks and underground sewers should be done and relevant local government organisations should monitor this maintenance activity.
"Oxygen masks, other safety gear and regular training should be ensured for the septic tank and sanitary workers," he said.
Iqbal Habib, joint secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, said a vent is a must for a safety tank from where the gas goes out.
"When we construct buildings haphazardly, many building owners shut the vent to get rid of the bad odour. In the process, they activate a ticking time bomb," he said.
A septic system is an onsite wastewater treatment system that processes and purifies household waste (effluent). The effluent consists of blackwater (toilet wastes) and gray water (kitchen sink, bathtub and laundry wastes).
He said Wasa prepared a 15-year sewerage master plan in 2015 intending to bring 100 percent of its areas under the sewerage network. However, only one among the proposed five sewerage treatment plants is now near completion.
Dasherkandi sewerage treatment plant is now awaiting inauguration.
After a fire incident at Moghbazar, Director (Technical) of Dhaka Wasa AKM Shahid Uddin said they maintain the sewerage lines every year.
He said they can cover 20 percent of areas through sewerage networks, out of which, 70 percent are effective.
"We are upgrading the existing one and working to set up the rest of the four treatment plants at Uttara, Mirpur and Rayerbazar," he said.