Grabbers have continued to occupy most areas of Dhaka city canals as the authorities failed to continue with their drives against them even though a list of the illegal occupants exists, causing inundation in the rainy season.
Urban planners and green activists alleged that the agencies seemed interested to take on expensive projects instead of maintaining existing physical infrastructure, necessary for reducing public suffering during the rainy season when waterlogging brings life in many areas of the capital to a standstill.
They said that until the 54 canals in the capital were reclaimed by evicting grabbers, the problem of waterlogging would not be solved as the canals were the primary storage of city rainwater.
For the 3rd consecutive day, many areas in the city, including Motijheel, Karwanbazar, Dhanmondi, Mirpur, Mirerbag, Mogbazar and Razarbag, went under water bringing untold sufferings to commuters as well as residents as waste water welled up and entered the households.
Some parts of the city also witnessed huge traffic congestions due to waterlogging.
Local government minister Md Tajul Islam after visiting different places and rainwater fallout points told reporters that he found dissimilarities between reality and information provided by Dhaka WASA and the Water Development Board.
Replying to a quarry he said that examining preparedness and capacity, the ministry would take the decision whether city drainage responsibility should be reshuffled or not.
Dhaka North city mayor Md Atiqul Islam and Dhaka South city mayor Barrister Fazle Noor Taposh, among other officials, were with the minister.
The mayors are willing to take the responsibility of the drainage system of the city.
‘Without development activities like embankments along the banks of the canals, reclamation of the canals would be meaningless,’ said Dhaka WASA managing director Taqsem A Khan.
He said that eviction was a continuous process and they were evicting grabbers when needed.
Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka Md Shahidul Islam said that they have the list of grabbers but why the eviction drive was suspended was something which was unknown to him.
‘All these happened before I took the chair. Now, I am promising cooperation to any agency that wants to reclaim the canals and the water bodies,’ he said.
Architect Iqbal Habib said that it happened as the officials are not held accountable for their actions.
‘Without reclaiming canals, all drainage projects will go in vain as is clearly evident now,’ he said.
He wanted to know whose purpose the agencies served by suspending the drive and added that it inspired others to grab public spaces.
In 2016, after a massive waterlogging, the agencies, including Dhaka South City Corporations, Dhaka WASA, districts administration, police and Bangladesh Water Development, collectively took the initiative of listing grabbers and ensuring their eviction.
On February 6, the joint team evicted over 200 illegal establishments from Nandipara-Trimohini Khal where several hundred other illegal structures still stand.
After the drive the agencies in a piecemeal way run several drives but several hundred enlisted grabbers still occupy the canals.
Government offices, private agencies, realtors and individuals were among others who grabbed canals which once worked as natural drainage system.
As per sources in the office of Dhaka deputy commissioner, there were at least 54 canals in Dhaka though the figure varies as per other sources.
Institute of Water Modelling listed 50 canals in the city including Abdullahpur Khal, Baisteki Khal, Baunia Khal, Begun Bari Khal, Boalia Khal, Dakkhingaon-Nandipara Khal, Dhanmondi Khal, Dolai Khal (part-1), Dolai Khal (part-2), Dumni Khal, Gopibagh Khal, Hazaribagh Khal, Ibrahimpur Khal, Kallyanpur Main Khal, Ka Khal, Kha Khal, Gha Khal, Uma Khal, Cha Khal, Khilgaon-Basabo Khal, Boalia Khal, Manda Khal, Kalsi Khal, Kamrangir Char Khal, Katasur Khal, Nandipara-Trimohoni Khal, Mohakhali Khal, Shahajadpur Khal, Paribag Khal, Shajahanpur Khal, Ramchandrapur Khal, Segunbagicha- Arambagh Khal, Rayerbazar Khal Segunbagicha Khal, Sangbadik Colony Khal and Rupnagar Khal.
DC office is the custodian of all the canals although Dhaka WASA maintains 26 canals, important for drainage network, and Bangladesh Water Development Board maintains 11 canals, important for the DND dam.
A number of private housing projects have been established grabbing Ramchandrapur Khal. Nabinagar Housing, Zemcon City, Mohammadi Housing and Bashundhara Group among others are involved in the projects.
Bashundhara Group also grabbed a part of Vatara Khal, Dumni Khal and two other canals.
Bangladesh Police Officers’ Samabay Samity filled Boalia Khal for their housing project.
Dhaka North City Corporation filled Rupnagar Khal for the construction of a road while Boalia Khal was grabbed for a housing project for the police.
Nandipara-Trimohoni Khal is one of the 22 canals under Dhaka South City Corporation which plays a very important role in draining out rainwater.
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