Removal of 74 tonnes and 94 tonnes of garbage from the box culvert at Panthakunja and Panthapath on the first day and second day respectively under the Dhaka South City Corporation's (DSCC's) canal reclamation and cleaning programme speaks for a kick-start the city badly needed. If sustained, the pace of work is likely to meet the deadline of end of March as set by the DSCC mayor for cleaning three canals -- Zirani, Manda and Shyampur -- and two box culverts -- Panthapath and Segunbagicha. Garbage disposal programme for the rest of the 26 canals will resume from June. Why there will be a two months' break before resuming the cleaning programme has not been explained but June may see the onset of the rainy season when undertaking such a programme will be more challenging than before.
Restoring the existing canals to their original shapes and sizes has already proved daunting because of encroachment and construction of huge permanent structures on the encroached lands. There were canals more than double the number, the responsibility of taking care of which the city corporations have been handed over officially recently. Cleaning the 26 canals and culverts or storm sewerage drains will definitely improve drainage of rain water but it may not help get rid of water-logging in the city. Unless cleaning of such channels becomes a routine practice and the flood plains or water retention areas cleared and connected to rivers, programmes such as the ongoing one may not ultimately produce the desired result. It is good to know that the two mayors are in favour of connecting the water bodies including the canals. They have even grand plans with rivers and the water bodies running through the heart of the city.
This is encouraging, no doubt, but how far are they ready to go about their business of restoring the health of canals and water bodies? The fact is that all the lakes in the city were once connected with each other. Even Dhanmondi Lake, although situated at a higher altitude, was once connected to Hatirjheel and Begunbari that stretched up to Mohakhalilake. Now a plan is under consideration to reconnect Dhanmondi lake with Hatirjheel lake which opens to the Uttara-Baridharalake. Reviving the Panthapath canal from the storm sewerage box culvert will prove highly challenging but given the resolve this is quite possible. It will create a long water-taxi route from Dhanmodi to Baridhara via Rampura and Gulshan among other places.
Now such a project has immense potential not only in terms of carrying out extra rain water from the central part of the city but also for turning the lakesides aesthetically scenic and environmentally wholesome. If the Segunbagicha canal can be recovered and connected to the network, ShantinagarMotijheel and the area around the secretariat may also get rid of water-logging. If the canals and lakes can have link to the rivers around the city, waters will not remain stagnant. Even subtle ebbs and flows triggered by rivers will make the water qualities better, provided that the drive to restore the latter's health culminates in a logical end in compliance with the High Court order.