Afzal Hossain, a resident of Bosila Garden City, told Prothom Alo rain causes waterlogging in many neighbouring area now. Former councillors' men filled the canal in Lautola Bazar 3 or 4 years ago. The canal was 100 metres wide in the part where the terminal has been set up. Besides, persons living on the banks of the canal also took advantage and encroached canal space, he added.

Visiting the Lautola Bazar Boslila on 9 Augustit was seen that about 200 metres of the has been filled up with waste, sand and soil. A terminal has been built there where trucks are parked. At least 30 shops, mostly automobile repairing and spare parts shops, have been set up there.

The terminal also has a two-storey building housing the office of the truck drivers’ association. A big signboard inscribing “Bangladesh Inter-district Truck Drivers Union, Mohammadpur Unit” was installed there.

Truck drivers claimed they built the terminal on a landfill on the part of the dead canal due to lack of space. Previously, the terminal was in Bhanga Mosque area of Gabtoli-Sadarghat Beribadh Road. Truck drivers built the new terminal with the help of Tarekuzzaman Rajib, former councillor of ward 33 of Dhaka North City Corporation, after the old one was demolished. They would bring truckloads of soil every night to fill the canal.

Tarekuzzaman Rajib is now behind bars in a narcotics case. He faces various allegations including extortion and land grabbing following his arrest by Rapid Action Battalion in October 2019.

According to the officials at Bangladesh Water Development Board, the Dhaka North City Corporation carried out a development project adjacent to the Martyred Intellectuals Graveyard and Intellectuals Memorial at Rayerbazar in 2011. At that time, a boundary wall was built to stop the river flow and the inner side of the graveyard was turned into a lake. As a result, nearly 200 metres on the canal on the north side of the graveyard dried up.

The two Dhaka city corporations took over the canals of the capital from Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority in December last year. Shawkat Hossain, caretaker engineer of Dhaka North city, told Prothom Alo some parts of Ramchandrapur canal are outside of the Gabtoli-Sadarghat embankment and canals located outside the embankment were not handed over to the city corporation. The city corporation is only responsible for Ramchandrapur canal’s portion that is inside the embankment and the remaining part belongs to the Water Development Board. The stretch of this canal where the truck stand has been set up on the landfill, falls under the jurisdiction of the Water Development Board, the city corporation official added.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Dewan Ainul Haque, executive engineer at the Water Development Board, said this part of Ramchandrapur canal dried up when the city corporation built a boundary wall on the canal to stop the river flow while constructing the Rayerbazar graveyard. A project on renovation of Ramchandrapur canal awaits approval. Once the project gets clearance, the canal will be freed of encroachment, he added.

Cashing in on the illegal terminal

Shops set up on the terminal pay a rent of Tk 3000-5000 a month and trucks are charged Tk 30 a day for parking.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Mohammad Farooque, treasurer of Bangladesh Inter-district Truck Drivers Union’s Mohammadpur unit, said about 700 trucks park in the terminal and 200-250 more on the road outside the terminal due to lack of space.

According to the truck drivers, Tk 21,000 is realised from 700 trucks daily with a parking fee of Tk 30 a day, totalling Tk 630,000 a month. Tk 120,000 comes from shop rent with 30 shops paying, on average, Tk 4,000 a month. Parking fees and shop rent total Tk 750,000 a month and the drivers’ union pockets this money. Previously, councillors received a commission and union leaders shared the remaining portion. The truck drivers, however, declined to comment on who receives shares of the money for now following the arrest of Tarekuzzaman Rajib.

Regarding the construction of the illegal truck terminal on the landfill, Prothom Alo correspondent could meet neither the president of the drivers’ union, Mohammad Nashu Mia, nor the general secretary, Shajalal Hossain even after going to Lautala Bazar terminal four times before and after Eid-ul-Azha.

When contacted over mobile phone, a woman, who identified herself as the wife of Nashu Mian, received the call and said he is ill. After that, several more calls went unanswered.

On the other hand, general secretary Shajalal Hossain hung up the phone after hearing the journalist’s identity on the other end of the phone. He then received no more calls.

Architecture Iqbal Habib, who is involved in civil rights' movement, said the matter of constructing a truck terminal by encroaching canal space can’t be accepted by any means. It must be removed. Besides, the canal points between Rayerbazar graveyard and Lautala area will have to be connected and the city corporation must do it, he added.

This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna