Recover Chaktai canal from encroachment

There has been a lot of discussions on the issue of waterlogging in Khatunganj, the top trading hub of the country. Several agencies and organisations have taken initiatives, but the deteriorating situation there is evidence that nothing has worked. A study, conducted by the Planning Commission’s National Resilience Programme and the United Nations Development Programme with the help of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry, shows heavy rainfall and waterlogging has caused financial losses worth Tk 25.15 billion (Tk 2,515 crore) in Khatunganj and neighbouring Asadganj and Korbaniganj over a decade. Five thousand businesses and traders related to it have faced direct financial losses.

Five factors have been considered in assessing the financial losses. These include waterlogging, infrastructure and property damage, additional investment in infrastructure, loss in working hours in transport service and labour sector and additional operational cost caused by traffic jams. Traders said waterlogging causes a increasing damages every year. Water enters shops and damaging goods. Many warehouses have been abandoned. Traders have to sell goods at lower prices.

According to the report published in Prothom Alo, buildings occupy 55.90 per cent of Khatunganj while canals, drains and reservoirs occupy only 7.80 per cent of the area. Rainfall of 200mm or more a day increases the water level by 4.1 metre in Chaktai and other nearby canals, leading to the main roads being inundated by 1 metre of water. Due to this situation, 50 per cent of the businesses have been relocated.

The study made 17 recommendations to resolve the problem. These include dredging Chaktai canal, introducing a multi-modal transport system and increasing reservoirs and greenery. The mayor of Chattogram City Corporation Rezaul Karim Chowdhury said, “We are responsible for this financial loss in Khatunganj. Traders and influential people have encroached upon Chaktai canal hampering the water flow.” In the past, his predecessors also expressed similar concern, but couldn’t take action against the grabbers.

Three agencies -- Chattogram City Corporation, Chattogram Development Authority and Chittagong Port Authority -- are responsible for overseeing Khatunganj. These three authorities have no coordination in in their work. They take up projects at their will and fail to resolve the problems.

Researchers recommended reservoirs and U map models to resolve waterlogging, but this requires recovering Chaktai canal from encroachment. Currently, buildings occupy 56 per cent of the area and implementing any plan will not be possible with these structures intact. If necessary, multi-storey buildings can be built after sparing land for the canal. We join in with the mayor to say that it is high time to recover Chaktai canal.

Once the river Hwang Ho was called the sorrow of China as it flooded houses and washed away crops over vast areas every year. The Chinese have turned Hwang Ho into a source of prosperity by controlling floods. Whether the sufferings of traders in Khatunganj will be assuaged, depends on the effective and sustainable measures on resolving the waterlogging.