Barguna town’s lifeline Bharani canal is dying due to unabated encroachment and pollution.
The seven-kilometre canal, linking two key rivers - Payra and Khakdon – was a key route for trading and communication, a and major source of irrigation. It also served to protect the town’s environment.
Local people say the canal, once the lifeline of the town, has now become ‘lifeless’.
Meanwhile, the higher court has asked the authorities to free the canal from the encroachers and subsequently submit a ‘report of compliance’ over the progress of the works within 30 days.
A bench of the higher court on Monday (7 January) handed down the order following a writ filed by the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA).
The bench also asked the authorities concerned to explain why their failure to save the canal from the encroachment and pollution would not be declared the illegal.
The existence of the canal is endangered, said BELA lawyer Ali Mostafa Khan adding that the local land office and Barguna municipality has identified 135 illegal encroachers in just 2.5 kilometre of the town.
“But, the local authorities failed to evict them. Thus, BELA filed the writ in a plea from the local people.”
A few years back, the local people said, small launches, cargo vessels and trawlers used to ply the canal.
In a visit to the canal, this reporter found that various structures on the banks of the canal, which have somewhat stopped the natural water flow in the canal in some places.
At the mouth, the canal is over 100 feet wide, and 60 and 70 feet wide at the Labangola and Banshbuniya points, but it has shrunk to 10-15 feet inside the town.
Local traders said people from different walks of life have been protesting against the encroachment and pollution for long.
Following insistent pressure from the locals, the district administration finally took action and put some demarcation pillars on the banks. But, the locals added, all of a sudden the initiative was stopped for unknown reasons.
Asked about the matter, BELA’s Barisal regional office coordinator Lincoln Nayen said they have been working for the past two years to rescue the canal.
Barguna deputy commissioner (DC) Kabir Mahmud told Prothom Alo that he had heard of a rule from the higher court. But, he is yet to receive the papers.
“Once we get the papers, we'll take action,” the DC added.
Barguna District Ainjibi Samity president Abdur Rahman said the canal is crucial for the region’s business, agriculture and environment.
“But, the canal is now under threat.”