In a move to rid the city of waterlogging, Barishal City Corporation (BCC) has started a drive to clean the 43 major canals flowing through the city, but are facing an all-too-familiar obstacle -- polythene -- by the tonnes.
According to BCC's conservancy department, only seven or eight of the 43 canals are now "alive", while the rest have basically turned into drains of various sizes. Due to the closure of these canals, low-lying areas, including some major roads, get flooded during the monsoon. For example, the rainfall of the last few months have caused massive water logging all around the city.
However, the work is being prolonged due to the presence of a huge amount of polythene products in the water bodies, with at least 15 tonnes of polythene being extracted from the canals everyday.
For the drive, started over a week ago, BCC staffers are collecting garbage dumped into the canals. Once the garbage is disposed, the canals will start moving by their natural flow, which will solve the waterlogging problems of the city, which often leads to flooding of the low-lying areas of the city, authorities said.
BCC has started the cleaning operation from its own income, sources told this newspaper.
Dr Rabiul Islam, conservancy officer of BCC, said, "Initially, we thought the canal cleaning project would not take long to complete. After starting the drive, we have been struggling to deal with the polythene. So much so, that we could not clean more than 600 metres yet in over a week."
"Due to the slow rate of action, it will end up taking a long time to clean all the canals," he added.
Gazi Naimul Hossain Litu, panel mayor and ward councilor of BCC ward-19, said, "It's astonishing how all canals across the city has been filled up with polythene." Most of these polythene comes from consumer products, which citizens from all walks of life dump indiscriminately into the canals.
BCC executive engineer Anisuzzaman said the canals project, which includes digging 43 canals, developing and constructing walkways, had come back a few months ago. However, it is very important to pass a canal excavation project for removing water logging of the city.
Bangladesh Environment Lawyer's Assocission (Bela) co-ordinator Lincoln Bain said, "The city will be submerged if the canals are not preserved." He demanded intensification of cleaning operations as well as removing illegal occupation from these areas.
Shah Sajeda, convener of Sacheton Nagorik Committee, said it was important to restore the canals for cultural factors too. "Barishal is called the 'Venice of Bengal' because of its canals."