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Dhaka Tribune

Local youths clean Mohammadpur canal, only to see it dirty again after three days

  • Hundreds of youths clean a canal in Mohammadpur
  • ‘Canal pollution cannot be stopped if people are not civilized’
Update : 03 Oct 2023, 10:09 PM

Japanese volunteers meticulously cleaned a stadium during the Qatar Football World Cup, igniting conversations about urban cleanliness. However, a recent local youth initiative in Bangladesh’s capital highlights the persistent challenge of maintaining cleanliness in urban areas.

On September 28 and 29, over a hundred young volunteers, led by cartoonist Morshed Mishu, embarked on a mission to clean a canal in Dhaka's Mohammadpur Society Limited area. Their goal was unequivocal: to set an example and transform the canal's appearance.

With the support of local cleaners and assistance from "Asian Paint" and "Awareness Three Sixty," the dedicated team worked relentlessly, restoring the canal from bridge numbers 1 to 4. 

Their efforts were commendable as they removed layers of waste, including bed cushions, commodes, and rugs. It was a testament to their commitment to creating a cleaner environment in Dhaka.

Reflecting on the initiative, Morshed Mishu explained that the inspiration came from a video on social media showing Dhaka submerged after a few hours of rain. 

He said: “After watching that video, I wondered as to what it would be like to clean the canal. Those who want to be associated with it were asked to post their willingness on Facebook. About a hundred youths expressed interest in joining.”

Then Mishu contacted the local ward commissioner. The commissioner promised to provide support by involving local cleaners in this effort.

The clean-up was not without challenges, but with divers from the city corporation clearing pipes under the bridge, the task became somewhat more manageable. 

Morshed Mishu said in total, Tk86,530 were spent on this cleaning campaign.

Keeping the canal clean main challenge

The optimism following this impressive clean-up was short-lived, however. Within just three days, the canal began to accumulate waste once again, highlighting the persistent problem of littering in the city. 

Local Ward Commissioner Asif Ahmed Sarkar expressed his frustration, emphasizing that without a change in people's behavior, it is nearly impossible to prevent the canal's pollution.

He pointed out that the canal, embanked from Hazaribagh through Mohammadpur, covers a vast area that is difficult to monitor continuously. The presence of discarded household items, including broken refrigerators, exemplifies the challenges faced in keeping these waterways clean.

Morshed Mishu, who led the clean-up effort, remains optimistic, acknowledging that people will continue to litter, but regular cleaning can prevent the accumulation of layers of waste in the canal.

Volunteers pose for a photo on the bridge after cleaning the canal in Mohammadpur area of Dhaka on September 29, 2023. Photo: Bangla Tribune

Encroachment and pollution 

Dhaka's struggle with waste management extends beyond canals. The city's natural water bodies, such as ponds, lakes and canals, are dwindling due to encroachment and pollution. 

Experts argue that a city should have at least 15% natural water bodies, but in Dhaka, this figure is closer to 4-5%. Most of the existing water bodies are on the brink of environmental disaster.

According to data from the Fisheries Department, the number of ponds in Dhaka declined from 2,000 in 1985 to 100 in 2018, and in 2023, it stood at a mere 29. 

This alarming decline in water bodies puts Dhaka's environment at risk, leaving the city's residents vulnerable to floods during the rainy season.

Environmentalists, like Abu Nasser Khan, president of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolan (Bapa), emphasize the urgent need to preserve canals, ponds, and reservoirs not only as water sources but also as vital components in protecting Dhaka city from rain-induced flooding. 

To avert an environmental disaster, immediate action is required to rejuvenate these vital water resources, he said.

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