Indiscriminate dumping of solid waste, illegal encroachment and absence of regular cleaning operations are slowly choking a canal essential in draining the south portion of Chittagong city.
Consequently, over 2 lakh residents of South Halishahar's western side are forced to deal with waterlogging, sometimes up to the waist, during heavy rainfall. For this they even nicknamed the canal “Morar Khal” (dying canal) for its morbid condition.
The branches of the Y-shaped Maittailla Khal run for around three kilometres over Ward 39 of Chittagong City Corporation (CCC).
One runs along Navy Colony and Chittagong Export Processing Zone and the other along Akmal Ali Road. They meet at Khalpar before passing through Sitepara, Cement Crossing and Khejurtala.
The canal runs southward for around two more kilometres before finally falling into the Bay of Bengal. The Daily Star recently found waste discarded by locals strewn across the canal at different points while there were no skips to be seen.
Although the canal is around 20 feet wide, it was found to have been reduced to nearly half at Khalpar where locals encroached upon it with bamboo poles, sand and even a tin-roofed concrete structure.
Moreover, weed was thriving all along the canal, a testament to the locals' claim that regular cleaning operations were non-existent.
Talking to The Daily Star, one of the locals, Sarwar Alam, said, “Last year, the city corporation removed some solid waste from the surface at some points in the name of dredging.”
Neither the local ward councilor nor the CCC was properly monitoring the cleaning operations, complained the locals.
Ward 39 Office Secretary Mansur Ali Khan said the conservancy department was running on a shoestring with only a handful of conservancy workers while there were no skips in the area.
It is not possible to clean the canal daily, he said, adding, “We clean the canal every alternate day but local residents, mostly tenants, fill it up with garbage within a short time.”
Admitting that dredging of the canal is done once a year, he said the locals' sufferings could end if the canal is dredged properly and an adequate number of skips are placed in the area.
CCC Superintendent Engineer Yakub Nabi, however, refuted the allegation that only the surface waste is removed in the name of dredging.
“Last year, a budget of Tk 3.6 lakh was allocated for every ward to dredge canals and drains. We have properly dredged the canal with excavator and manually under that budget,” he said.
CCC would look into the matter soon and oust the encroachers during dredging, he added.
Ward Councillor Sarafraz Kader could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.