Another city canal goes
A canal, which was once connected to several other water bodies in the city and the Turag River, at Lautola Kanchabazar is now in its death throes.
It is being rapidly filled up to construct a bus terminal.
The illegal filling up of the canal has been going on unabated for several months as the Deputy Commissioner's Office in Dhaka has been turning a blind eye to the issue.
Mohammadpur units of Bangladesh Inter-District Truck Drivers' Union and Dhaka Inter-district Truck Owners' Association, are dumping earth to fill up the canal through trucks every night.
This correspondent visited the area last month and saw that a significant portion had already been filled up.
Mohammad Nasu Mia, president of Bangladesh Inter-district Truck Driver's Union, Mohammadpur unit, said due to not getting any space to park around 1000 to 1200 trucks, they, along with Dhaka Metropolitan Truck Owners' Association, are partially filling the canal.
"We started filling up [the canal] before Eid-ul Azha," he told The Daily Star, adding that their trucks are bringing earth from different places.
He said the location currently being used as the truck terminal at Bhangamosjid, on the northern side of Mohammadpur crossing, will have to be vacated within a few months. For this reason, they are constructing the new terminal here. “The place is leased out for other purposes from the DC office,” he said.
The DC office was earlier asked to find khas land in the area to construct the terminal but they did not find any suitable place. Thus, the canal is being partially filled up as it is already facing encroachment by many others, he added.
Over the years, several housing projects in Basila encroached on a large chunk of the water body narrowing its width while many structures were illegally constructed on both sides of the canal.
A local, Sayed Saiful Alam, recently filed a complaint with the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) to stop the ongoing filling up.
In his complaint, Saiful said the act was a violation of many laws, including Bangladesh Water Law, 2013, Bangladesh River Protection Act 2013, Playground, Open Space, Park and Natural Water Body Protection Act 2000, Bangladesh Environment Protection Act 1995 and Real Estate Development and Management Act 2010.
Shahed Ali, another resident of Rayerbazar, said that during construction of the Rayerbazar graveyard near Rayerbazar killing ground, the mouth of the canal on the eastern side became blocked, reducing the water flow.
He said many boats used to ply the canal even in 2013 but are now completely gone.
A part of the canal goes through Basila graveyard in Mohammadpur and the rest snake their way around Basila.
Chief Estate Officer of DNCC, Aminul Islam said the owner of the canal is the DC office and thus the DNCC can'tinterfere. He, however, said they sent a surveyor recently to visit the canal and see the illegally filling.
Basila falls under the jurisdiction of DNCC Ward-33. But Councillor of the Ward, Tarequzzaman Razib, seemed to be very reluctant about stopping the illegal canal filling.
"There is no place to park so many trucks. Since there is no flow in the canal...it can be used for terminal purposes," he said. He claimed that truck owners' association's leaders informed him of seeking lease of the land from the DC office.
He, however, changed his tune when asked how a canal can be filled up as it is also his duty to protect and renovate canals. "I sought help from authorities concerned to stop the filling activities. I also requested the truck owners' association again and again to stop the work."
On condition of anonymity, a top official of the DC office, who is responsible for checking such illegal filling up works and protecting canals, said they did not lease any part of the canal to truck owners or others.
He claimed he did not know about the illegal filling of canal.
But Tarequzzaman and some other locals contradicted that claim and said some officials of DC office have already visited Lautola Kanchabazar and are well aware of the illegal encroachment.