THE High Court Division’s directive for the government to prepare and submit in six months ‘a time-bound action plan’ for the recovery and reclamation of the capital’s 50 canals by demarcating their boundaries according to their original flows, is welcome. The court, as New Age reported on Tuesday, also directed it to enclose with the action plan a list of encroachers and grabbers of the canals to prevent encroachment of all sorts on canals and water bodies and to stop construction by evicting them once and for all. There were about 78 canals in the city; but none of them exists now as all of them were grabbed by influential quarters. Their absence has made stagnation of rainwater a perennial problem. Many canals and natural water bodies are still being subjected to a relentless onslaught on their very existence in the form of pollution and encroachment although the highest judiciary issued a number of rules, either suo moto or in response to public interest litigation writ petitions, on the government, asking it to undertake effective steps to end the pollution of and encroachment on natural water bodies. This, evidently, is a testimony to the government’s failure to rein in the menace. Now, a moderate rainfall is enough to halt the city life of Dhaka as many areas go under water. Unauthorised construction of structures on grabbed canals and water bodies has become a hindrance to the drainage system of the capital.
Widespread encroachment on different rivers in the city, too, continues, reducing the flow of water on them and causing the build-up of silt, which eventually causes a rising frequency of monsoon floods in the city and aggravation of water shortage in the dry season. One is aware that almost all the major rivers that skirt around Dhaka, feeding its groundwater reservoirs, are being gradually filled up by politically powerful quarters. The government agencies on certain occasions have embarked on demolition drives to save the rivers and canals from being choked with encroachment. But these efforts have often come to an abrupt halt with no permanent solution. The government must realise that episodic demolition drives cannot prevent encroachment on rivers and water bodies; it will necessitate sustained action and surveillance. Some experts warned that unless drastic measures were undertaken, the water of some of the rivers and canals would be polluted beyond treatment. Yet, encroachment on and pollution of canals and water bodies continue with untreated human, industrial and clinical wastes being discharged into them.
The government along with its relevant agencies must comply with the court directive. It also needs to take steps to reclaim canals, rivers and water bodies illegally grabbed by encroachers in the greater interest of the nation, rising above all kinds nepotism, cupidity and meanness. It must, in other words, lend full support to all government agencies concerned so that all can fight the menace of encroaching on canals at full throttle.
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