We have a National River Protection Commission and its name tells its function. Rivers, water bodies and canals are shrinking gradually across the country as the commission is failing to assert its duties. It recently prepared a 57-page report on the past and present situation of canals in the capital Dhaka. It reports that most of the canals have disappeared.

The commission discovered the existence of 65 canals by analysing records, maps, past land surveys of six out of 11 circles of the land administration of Dhaka Metropolitan area. If past history of the remaining five circles are analysed, the equal number of canals will be found. So, over hundred canals would once flow through our dear capital. The canals were used for the movement of people as well as commodity transportation. The rain water would flow through the canals and there was no waterlogging at the time. Besides, it does not need to mention that the canals would play roles to blow fresh air and protect the beautiful and healthy natural environment.

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The question is why and how the canals disappeared from the Dhaka Metropolitan area. There are many causes. The unplanned urbanisation is the main cause. With the increase of people, the new establishments are built and the city expands. When a city grows in an unplanned and undisciplined way, the natural resources are harmed. In the process of gradual expansion of Dhaka Metropolitan, the road communication has given the priority for the movement of people and commodity transportation.

The waterways of connected existing canals could play better roles for the movement of people and commodity transportation, but the matter was not taken into account. Roads have been constructed by filling up canals. The canals which could drain out rain water have been damaged and artificial box culverts and drains have been built. As a result, our dear capital is now a city of water logging. Many areas are inundated with small amounts of rain water. Instead of the natural beauty of the banks of the canals, bricks, wood, iron and concrete now dominates.

The High Court said the canals grabbed illegally have to be recovered. It may raise the question, will that be possible? Architects, urban planners and experts said the task may be difficult, but it is of course possible. Environment activist and architect Iqbal Habib said Hatirjheel and Dhanmondi canal were connected through Rajabazar canal. The Rajabazar canal exists no more, but a sketch has been drawn how to connect the Hatirjheel and Dhanmondi canal.

As per the directives of the High Court, we think it is very urgent to recover all the canals grabbed illegally in a bid to reduce the crisis of water bodies, remove the water logging and reduce the pressure on the roads. Regular monitoring is necessary to protect the remaining canals from grabbing and pollution.

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