The city canals have got back their identities as they are now under the tutelage of the city corporations
In his fifties, Nawab Mohammad has been a regular walker along the bank of the Kallyanpur canal in the city since the water body was rescued.
The environment in the area has been restored to normal after the canal was recovered, but if not cleaned regularly, the canal goes back to its previous state, said Nawab who has been living with his family near the Rajanigandha Road for 12 years.
Local residents have also said there is no more waterlogging now during the monsoon. A short distance ahead, it was seen that the walkway along the bank of the canal comes to an end.
But the Ibrahimpur canal in Kachukhet of the capital throws up a contrasting picture. Although the waterway made its presence felt as a result of cleaning three months ago, there is hardly any flow of water there.
The situation was more deplorable three years ago, said residents living nearby.
The canal rescued near the Mohakhali bus stand appears to exist in name only. It has become too narrow for the water to run.
Locals say there is no way to call it a canal any more as it resembles a drain at best and is cleaned only occasionally.
Sometimes the water flow increases during the rainy season but most of the time it remains stagnant.
As the conditions of most of the canals in the capital are deplorable, the two city corporations have taken over the responsibility from Dhaka Wasa to look after the waterbodies in order to bring them back to life.
Work on this will begin on Saturday, Selim Reza, chief executive officer of the Dhaka North City Corporation, told The Business Standard.
"We will inspect the canals from Saturday and map them out. Following the inspection, the occupied land beside the canals will be recovered from illegal occupants," he said.
As the canals have now come under the city corporations, coordination in development and maintenance will be easier, the official said, adding that earlier the city corporation could not do anything other than only clean them. Therefore, there was incoherence in its activities.
He said assistance will be sought from local people's representatives and the government agencies to free the canals.
On Thursday, Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh announced the handover of the responsibility of drainage management from Dhaka Wasa to the two city corporations, terming it as a historic move.
At the handover ceremony, the mayor said a canal development project worth Tk900 crore will be sent to the Ecnec for approval.
He added that Dhaka South is ready to begin the task of cleaning three canals and two box culverts at Panthapath and Segunbagicha as well as another two at Jirani and Manda in Dhaka from Saturday.
Kalunagar canal has been partially cleaned, and after that Dhaka South will work on Dholai Khal and Buriganga original channel with its own funds.
Taposh announced that Dhaka will be built as an aesthetic city by rescuing and cleaning the canals.
Dhaka North Mayor Atiqul Islam was also present on the handover occasion.
In his remarks, he said city canals have got back their identities as they are now under the tutelage of the city corporations.
Atiqul Islam expressed his determination to restore the speed of the flow of water in the channels as before.
Emphasising demarcation of the boundaries surrounding the canals as per the city survey, he said illegal structures on both sides of the canal will be demolished, re-excavation will be done to increase its volume, embankments will be greened, and walkways and cycle lanes will be created.
According to the authorities concerned, earlier the drainage management system in the capital had been naturally regulated.
The River Commission says there were 65 canals in the city at the time.
These canals have been filled up during the period of the 1980s, with most of the canals either being occupied by land grabbers or ceasing to exist due to unplanned urbanisation.
However, talking to a number of responsible agencies, The Business Standard noted a discrepancy in the number of canals in Dhaka. According to Wasa, there are currently 26 canals flowing in Dhaka. Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan says there are 52 canals in Dhaka.
Meanwhile, a survey of the map shows that Kalyanpur Canal, Merul Canal, Mohakhali Canal, Gulshan Canal, Rayerbazar Canal, Kachukhet Canal, Arambagh Canal, Gopibagh Canal, Dhalpur Canal and Dholaikhal are some of the waterbodies found flowing and partially flowing.
Although it is said that the canals are flowing or partially flowing, most of them have apparently turned into drains. In reality, some canals have almost disappeared.
Of the 26 canals under Wasa, 7 are in areas under Dhaka South while the rest are in Dhaka North area.
Wasa has been trying to rescue the canals in the capital for the last few decades. Besides, the city corporations were seen to take initiatives to this end from time to time. A few rescue campaigns were successful, but later the drive came to a standstill for various reasons.
In this situation, the entire responsibility of the canals was handed over to the two city corporations.
In this respect, city planner and architect Iqbal Habib thinks the rescue of the canals will gather pace compared to what it was in the early period, though the task is not easy.
He told TBS it will require appropriate coordination between the two city authorities in association with law enforcement agencies, social, political and environmental organisations to work well enough, which had not been possible for Wasa for so long.
With a political mandate, the mayors and councilors have to come ahead to free the canals, Iqbal suggested, adding that a time-based plan, recruitment of appropriate manpower and modern technology will be required for it to be done.
However, in order for such initiatives to be successful in all respects, first of all, it is necessary to build social capacity and awareness, according to the city planner.
It is to be noted that the canals of the capital have been suffering from navigability crisis for long not only during the monsoon but also in the dry season.
These canals are one of the sources of water pollution as well as urban pollution.
Wasa and the city corporations had been blaming each other for long, and the "blame game" ended with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding recently.