Celebration of Eid-ul-Adha, the second largest religious festival of Muslims, has never been an easy task during the season of monsoon. Unlike Eid-ul-Fitr, there is no scope of enjoying a rainy Eid day with just good food and hot cups of tea.
You have to be out there (at least in your apartment’s garage), sacrifice the cattle, watch the skinning and chopping of meat, wait for an infinite period in front of the elevator with a bucket full of meat that weighs 15 kilos, and have to handle the utter chaos created by the ‘Qurbani meat seeking’ crowd.
All this becomes even more difficult and unpleasant if there is rain. The soggy and slippery ground marked by blood and cow dung and the prolonged foul odour caused by the vapour and humidity represent anything but a celebratory image. But none of this was as bizarrely grotesque as the one witnessed by the Dhakaites during the last Qurbani Eid.
The river of blood that occurred on the morning of September 13, 2016 was long overdue though. In a capital city of 17 million, a significantly insufficient and inefficient sewerage system, rain of over 140 mm for three hours, a blissfully ignorant part of the city mob (unfortunately they represent the largest slice in the pie) and a few hundred thousand sacrificial animals is all it takes to create such chaos.
Could this happen again?
All sorts of weather prediction websites and apps (including the one of the Met department of the government which has surprisingly become very efficient in the last couple of years) are showing heavy rain with thunderstorms from September 1-3. Given the fact that the capital has already witnessed severe waterlogging this monsoon, it’s not hard to anticipate waterlogged roads and streets on those days of continuous rain as well.
The sewerage network of the capital has long been in a sorry state and it hasn’t improved a bit from last year. Data available from the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa) shows that the capital has 370-km storm sewerage networks, and 2,840 km long surface drains to discharge rain water into 22 canals.
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At the same time, Dhaka North and South City corporations collectively maintain over 2,000km of feeder drains (narrow sewer system) to carry rainwater, and liquid waste from homes into canals and wider diameter storm sewer systems.
This data was the same last year. A study of the Urban and Regional Planning (URP) Department of BUET stated that at least five lakh new people migrate to the capital each year, so it can be assumed that the sewerage disposal system has only gotten worse this time, with no change to the drainage system but a much higher number of people using it.
Are we prepared?
On August 11 this year, at a meeting with all the mayors of 11 city corporations in the secretariat, Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives (LGRD) minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain informed that the government has fixed 6,233 spots in the 11 city corporations and 53 district towns for slaughtering sacrificial animals this year.
Incidentally, this fixing of designated spots for cattle sacrifice was started last year by the two mayors who, with their honest intentions, thought it would be of benefit to city dwellers, since it would have saved them the bother of having to slaughter the animal near their vicinity, and the responsibility of cleaning up afterwards.
However, despite a total of 1,152 spots around Dhaka that were being designated as sacrificial locations, many citizens chose (or were forced by the rains) to slaughter animals in their garages, on the streets, and in alleyways near their homes.
When this came up during the meeting on August 11, the LGRD minister said that about 73 percent of people last year went to the designated spots to sacrifice cattle. He hoped that this year the percentage of people will be even more.
People will be informed about the designated spots through loudspeaker 10 days ahead of Eid-ul-Azha and the authorities concerned of the city corporations have been asked to take necessary steps to inform others through SMS services, two weeks ahead of Eid.
The authorities concerned of the city corporations and the municipalities have also been asked to open a control room for monitoring the slaughtering process and ensuring removal of waste, said the minister.
Meanwhile, two city corporations of Dhaka are also gearing up for clearing the city after the sacrifice as soon as possible. With the deployment of additional staff, there will be 10,544 cleaning workers in Dhaka to remove Qurbani waste within the targeted time of 48 hours. The city corporations will also engage waste carrying trucks equipped with modern equipment.
So, from the government's side, it seems that, despite severe infrastructural limitations, they are taking all-out preparations to make sure that a river of blood doesn't happen again in Dhaka. But if the citizens don’t cooperate and take the easier option of sacrificing cattle in their alleyways, then finding pictures of another ‘river of blood’ on social media is just a matter of time.