The Financial Express

Demolition that raises hope

File photo used for representational purpose. (Collected) File photo used for representational purpose. (Collected)

The Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) deserves kudos. It has embarked on restoring some of the extinct canals of Dhaka by evicting the encroachers.

Led by Mayor Atiqul Islam, DNCC teams are now seen knocking down illegal structures, including buildings, built on the original routes of several city canals. Soon after clearing the structures, excavators engage in digging work to restore the canals.

The DNCC has identified at least 40 such spots that require clearing to help restore the all-important canals of Dhaka city and rid the city of the problem of water-logging during the monsoon.

It is a good beginning on the part of the DNCC. Restoring the canals that once crisscrossed the Dhaka city is still considered an impossible task, for most of those are grabbed by local goons and musclemen. Yet the sight of DNCC bulldozers knocking down newly-built multistoried buildings has raised hope.

The restoration of the canals of Dhaka city is a longstanding demand. Policymakers and relevant others have felt the need for it, but nothing tangible was done to this effect. The main reason behind such inaction has been the grabbing of canal routes by a section of local influential people.

The city canals have not disappeared suddenly. The process had begun long ago and continued for many years. None has ever bothered to stop it. Much of the blame goes to the Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (DWASA). This entity preferred to be an onlooker as the canals continued to die slowly.

In the face of widespread criticism, the government transferred the responsibility of overseeing the city canals to the north and south city corporations more than a year back. It was a matter of satisfaction that the city corporations volunteered to take over the responsibility since city residents, in most cases, held them responsible for water-logging. Once restored to their original form, the city canals would largely help resolve the problem.

But retrieving the canals would not be an easy job. The DNCC mayor has made it clear that the corporation will not issue any notice beforehand while evicting illegal structures built on the routes of the canals. The DNCC has a work plan to protect the recovered canals from future encroachment. The corporation has also engaged the services of the Bangladesh Army in this task. 

The activities of the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) in the canal restoration programme are not visible until now. The problem of water-logging, however, is more acute in the north than in the south. But some areas, including Motijheel, Fakirapool, Nayapaltan, Santinagar and Kamalapur, face serious water-logging during the monsoon. So, the DSCC needs to take up the job of canal restoration on an urgent basis.

The problem of water-logging in Dhaka city is the manifestation of neglect for decades. The canals and natural drainage systems have not become clogged or extinct in a day. Their restoration cannot be done also in a short time. It will take time. Side by side initiating measures to reduce the intensity of water-logging in the coming rainy season, the city corporations should stick to the job of restoring canals and clearing drainage systems that would help flush out rainwater.


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