A flowing canal ran through the town of Brahmanbaria once. Now what is left of the 3.5-km-long canal is a mere stream. At places, it looks as though it is a long stretch of barren land.
Connecting the Titas river at Tan Bazar on the eastern end of the town and the same river at Gokarno on the west, it used to be a means of affordable transport for the townspeople.
Livelihoods of many also depended on it as the town's businesspeople and inhabitants alike could use large vessels on it to transport huge amounts of goods and supplies.
The water in the canal used to be so clear that it was favourite pastime of locals to sit by its banks and chatter away to each other in their free time or bathe in it to cool off in summer days. Many others considered it a blessing as they could earn a living by fishing in it.
Other than serving as a large open drain, the canal, without having any excavation done in last 30 years, now has turned into nothing but a waste dump and a mosquito breeding ground.
A culture of encroachment and littering and especially failure of the authorities to conduct timely maintenance have been to blame for the canal's present state, alleged locals.
Although the maintenance of the canal falls within the purview of Brahmanbaria Zila Parishad, so far it did nothing visible to save the canal, they said.
To make matters worse, in 2010, the then mayor of Brahmanbaria municipality in the name of a beautification project choked up the canal at many places by constructing embankments on its sides. He also pocketed a large sum of money allocated for the project, they also alleged.
The former mayor, Hafizur Rahman Mollah, while speaking with this correspondent, however claimed that he had completed the beautification work as specified by Brahmanbaria Zila Parishad and he spent all the allocated funds for the project.
The canal is in ruins now as all the successive mayors of the municipality failed to maintain it, he said.
Only visible maintenance done on the canal was two years back, when different voluntary organisations were brought together by Mizanur Rahman, then superintendent of police in Brahmanbaria district.
The volunteers at Mizanur's request raised funds from locals and removed some debris and aquatic plants such as water hyacinth from the canal.
Ever since, no steps were taken to stop locals from dumping garbage in it or encroaching on it. As a result, the canal has become a source of not only mosquitoes, but overpowering stench.
The situation is so severe that the revolting smell emitting from the canal might make a first-time visitor sick.
Azhar Uddin, a resident of Madhyapara in the town, said garbage from nearby restaurants, businesses and houses are dumped in the canal indiscriminately.
“We watch this mindless destruction of the beautiful asset before our very eyes every day, but can't do anything,” he sighed frustratingly.
Habibur Rahman Parvez, joint secretary of Brahmanbaria Zila Nagorik Forum, told this correspondent that at least a hundred structures have encroached on the canal in Kazipara, Moulvipara, Sarkarpara, Madhyapara and Poirtola areas.
Aside from other measures, these illegal structures have to be removed to revive past glory of the canal and to ensure sufficient width for passing of vessels, he also said.
Many locals said since large trucks are off limits to the town due to its narrow roads, revival of the canal would enable them to transport large loads of cargo, especially construction materials.
Contacted, Shafiqul Alam, chairman of Brahmanbaria Zila Parishad, said, “We will take immediate action to remove illegal establishments from both sides of the canal.”
He also said necessary plans will be made so there is a permanent and sufficient water flow in the canal all year long.