The progress in reviving the canals in Dhaka after the responsibility being handed over to the two city corporations from Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA) is very encouraging. Dhaka WASA was responsible for eliminating the waterlogging in the city. Despite spending millions of taka in cleaning the canals every year, those were being filled creating drastic waterlog during the monsoon. Amid such situation the two city corporations took over the responsibility of restoring canals on 31 December.
A report Prothom Alo carried on 22 February said some 9300 tonnes of wastes was removed from 14 canals of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) including Ibrahimpur canal, Ramchandrapur canal, Godagari canal, Rupnagar canal, Sagufta canal in one and a half months. On the other hand, about 21,047 tonnes of wastes was removed from multiple canals of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) including Jirani canal, Manda, Shyampur, Kadamtala, Kamalapur canal in that period. Due to restoring operations many canals have returned to normal condition. Experts hope the city dwellers may not have to suffer due to waterlogging in the coming monsoon.
According to 2020 survey of River and Delta Research Centre, there are 73 canals in Dhaka. But, as per the latest survey of Dhaka district administration in 2016, the number of canals is 58. Dhaka district administration’s report said, as many as 37 canals among the 58 are occupied by illegal encroachers. It also said that the canals have lost normal flow due to pollution and encroachments while some of them are completely filled.
City corporation authorities said, Tk 14.1 million has been spent for removing encroachers and wastes from the canals in one and a half months. Two city corporations used their own fund for the task. The two organisations sought allocations of 2.61 billion taka from the government to protect the canals and waterbodies in the city. Earlier, WASA would receive annual allocations of Tk 400 to 600 million from the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives for protecting the waterbodies. Urban experts appreciated the initiative. They also put emphasis on aggravating supervision to stop encroachments in the future. Integrated plans are required to protect the banks of the canals.
Both the city corporations must act quickly to remove the encroachers before the monsoon. Most of the encroachers are locally influential persons. Since the city corporation is an elected organisation, it would be easier for them to remove the encroachers. But the matter of concern is the initiatives of the city corporations will bring no result if the people’s representatives, such as councilors, are involved with the encroachments and pollution of the canals.
The two city corporations have performed the task with their own fund that the WASA could not do even after taking money from the ministry. We can thank them for this. Another thing that must be kept in mind is that the question of navigability of the rivers is deeply connected with the restoration of the canals. The water in the canals will not flow if the rivers are filled which may result in perennial waterlogging eventually.