Two major canals in the capital – Shahzadpur and Shutibhola canals – have become victims of rampant encroachment and indiscriminate waste dumping, as authorities concerned reportedly remained soft against the canal-grabbers, and have also failed to re-dig, demarcate and monitor the condition of the canals.
Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa) officials claimed that the city canals had no illegal occupants; but residents of Shahzadpur, Uttar Badda, Khilbari Tek, Nurerchala, Jauar Tek alleged that negligence by the authorities have allowed encroachers to grab parts of the Shahzadpur and Shutibhola canals.
Abul Khayer, a resident of Shahzadpur, said most locals dumped their household wastes in Shahzadpur canal and many even occupied significant portions of the canal in the absence of proper maintenance.
“The workers of Wasa come after a long period of time to clean only the garbage, but take no step to re-dig the canal,” he said, adding: “The canal’s width has reduced because of encroachment by land owners near the canal.”
K Jamal, another resident living near the bank of Shutibhola canal at Uttar Badda, said the bed of the canal was full of polythene-waste and other garbage.
“As the canal is filthy and uncared for, people of its adjoining areas throw their household wastes including a huge number of poly-bags in it. In rainy season, it becomes almost impossible to live in this area because of overflow of rainwater with garbage,” he said.
According to Dhaka Wasa, Dhaka used to have 65 canals but the number has come down to 43 over time. Of the existing ones, around 20 canals have also nearly vanished because of encroachment, Wasa officials said.
In a bid to ensure sustainable delivery of storm water drainage and wastewater disposal from the city, the government in September 2008 approved the Dhaka Water Supply and Sanitation Project (DWSSP), in association with the World Bank.
As part of the project, Dhaka Wasa has taken steps to reclaim 26 canals from illegal occupation by building walkways, channels, lining and planting trees along demarcation of the canals’ embankments.
The Shahzadpur canal passes through Pragati Sarani, Shahzadpur, Shutibhola and Uttar Badda; while the Shutibhola canal winds its way through Shutibhola mouza, Satarkul mouza and the eastern part of Ulan mouza.
According to a 2007 survey by Wasa, the 1.91km-long Shahzadpur canal was 9 metre wide on an average, and the 3.68km-long Shutibhola canal was around 10-20 metre wide.
However, during a recent visit to the area, the Dhaka Tribune found that different establishments built near the banks of the canals has caused the width of Shahzadpur canal to narrow down to around 5-7 meter, while Shutibhola’s width had become around 9-10 meter.
The dumping of household wastes and poly-bag into the canal by locals has also reportedly caused the depth in different areas of the canal to come down to around 2-3 meter.
AFM Abdul Aziz, project director for the DWSSP, told the Dhaka Tribune: “We will immediately start the development of Shahzadpur canal, Shutibhola canal and Abdullahpur canal.
“Dhaka Wasa has asked invitation for tender to appoint contractors for the implementation of the project,” he added.
Aziz said the project consisted of constructing open RCC (reinforced concrete) rectangular channel, closed RCC box-culverts, walkways, erection of demarcation pillars and tree plantation.
He claimed that constructing walkways and planting trees would depend on space availability, but demarcation pillars would be erected at 10 metre gaps, while waste containers would also be set up on both sides of the channel at suitable locations.