Faulty design and planning are said to be the main reasons behind the damages to the newly built Chattogram-Cox’s Bazar rail tracks during the recent flood in the area, said experts.
In a recent turn of events, the Chattogram region has been grappling with a devastating flood, sparking blame and concerns over the newly constructed railway line, particularly in hilly areas.
The flood, which has submerged numerous parts of Chattogram, notably in the Dohazari-Satkania vicinity, has prompted local residents to point fingers at the construction of the rail line, citing its crooked alignment as a potential cause for the catastrophic inundation.
Local inhabitants argue that the floodwaters would not have reached such catastrophic levels if the rail line had been designed to allow for the smooth flow of water. Prior to this disaster, local residents had formed human chains to demand the incorporation of more culverts and bridges during the rail line’s construction, emphasizing the necessity of efficient drainage mechanisms during heavy rainfall and floods.
Experts have echoed the concerns, stating that a sufficient number of culverts are essential for rapid water drainage during such climatic events. The torrential rainwater from the hilly areas on the eastern side is reportedly becoming trapped in the rail line area, unable to drain towards the western side and the sea. Consequently, high water levels have led to the submersion of houses, forcing people to seek shelter on the rail line itself.
Professor Md. SamshulHaq from BUET’s Civil Engineering Department drew attention to a parallel rail construction in the Indian part of the region, highlighting how elevated construction was undertaken to mitigate future flooding risks. However, in Bangladesh’s Dohazari-Cox’s Bazar Railway project, the rail line was constructed on low-lying land, contributing to the observed destruction.
Environmentalists have also joined the discourse, attributing the disaster to design flaws that did not account for adequate water flow and environmental considerations, including climate change impacts.
The newly constructed railway track stretches from the North to South, while water flows from East to West, eventually reachaing the sea.
Dr. Ainun Nishat, a climate change and water expert, emphasised the importance of factoring in this geographical layout during the design process.
Dr. Nishat pointed out that instances of heavy rainfall are becoming more frequent due to climate change. This trend is expected to amplify the occurrence of rapid and intense rain events within short timeframes.
The Bangladesh Environment Protection Council’s President, A.N. Helal Uddin, emphasized the need for proper water management infrastructure, incorporating a thorough assessment of water flow before railway construction. They lamented the apparent oversight regarding the railway line’s susceptibility to drought and flooding, especially in the context of climate change.
Ahmad Ghiyas, an environmental affairs researcher, pointed out to rushed construction practices, including the use of hill soil, which can become hazardous when exposed to heavy rainfall. The risk of soil erosion leading to accidents necessitates immediate attention to rectify the situation.
Responding to the concerns, the railway authority attributed the flood to excessive rainfall in the region. The authority asserted that the railway line had undergone meticulous surveying and had integrated 244 culverts for water drainage, even accounting for a 100-year flood scenario. The sections where the rail line is susceptible to sinking were raised by approximately 20 feet. Nonetheless, the unusually heavy rain led to the sinking of the railway line.
Mofijur Rahman, the Project Director, visited the site and explained that the recent flood was a consequence of sudden and excessive rainfall. Landslides and flooding caused a significant collapse of a section of the Dohazari-Cox’s Bazar railway line under construction, impacting about one kilometer. A particularly dire situation unfolded in the Temuhani area of Kenochia Union in Satkania Upazila, where approximately 450 meters of railway line suffered destruction.
Despite the setback, Mofizur Rahman conveyed that measures were being taken to address the damage. He stated that arrangements for water drainage were being enhanced, with an increase in the number of culverts. He noted that the railway was designed to handle flooding on one side but was caught off-guard by the symmetrical flooding on both sides during this particular incident. He anticipated that the railway would be inaugurated in October following the completion of all necessary repairs and adjustments.
As the region endeavors to recover from the devastation caused by the flood, the narrative surrounding the railway line’s construction has raised questions about design considerations, climate resilience, and the imperative to balance infrastructure development with environmental impact. The incident serves as a poignant reminder of the intricate interplay between human progress and nature’s unpredictability.