Easing waterlogging at cost of canals' death |
Morshed Ali Khan
While the city's surviving natural canals urgently need excavation to get back navigability and avoid drying out, a government initiative to address the need has been diverted to cleaning drains and storm sewers to ease waterlogging in the city.
Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (Wasa) has already spent more than Tk 50 crore of the Tk 203 crore fund for a waterlogging removal project in the Dhaka metropolitan area without any 'comprehensive plan' for permanent demarcation and restoration of the canals, sources said.
The project originally envisaged recovery and excavation of the canals in line with the findings of a study conducted by the district administration, which had identified 14 out of 35 natural canals as 'recoverable' and still in use with 'too little draft' for navigation during the lean period.
In May, Dhaka Wasa removed some thatched structures from 12 canals, including the Kalyanpur and Gulshan-Banani canals, at a cost of over Tk 26 lakh but did nothing to restore the characters of these canals and to properly connect them to the rivers outside the embankment of the city.
These canals need immediate manual excavation, as dredgers are tool large to enter these narrow, shallow waterways, otherwise "it would be difficult to save these natural canals from extinction," a source in the district administration said.
Since the independence, successive governments and land grabbers have contributed to filling up of at least 15 natural canals to construct roads, box-culverts and other structures.
The Meradia, Nandipara, Ramchandrapur, Hazaribagh, Gabtoli, Ibrahimpur, Katashur, Banasri, Jatrabari and Kadamtali canals are partially active and need immediate attention 'for the sake of their survival'.
According to experts, natural canals greatly help drain the storm water and prevent flooding and waterlogging. With the ever-descending groundwater level at 46.24 metres, the city desperately needs such water bodies, an expert at the Department of Environment said.
In September 2004, an inter-ministerial meeting chaired by Local Government and Rural Development (LGRD) Minister Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan formed a committee comprising experts from about a dozen organisations to study the feasibility of a project to save the canals. The responsibility to protect these canals now lies with Dhaka Wasa, which has been responsible for virtually 'killing' several of them.