The government is planning to form an independent task force to recover the encroached canals of Dhaka and ease the perpetual waterlogging crisis in the capital.
The taskforce will comprise all of the city’s regulatory authorities and law enforcement agencies, and is likely to be led by the army.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has repeatedly directed her Cabinet colleagues and officials concerned to address the waterlogging hazard as a top priority.
On July 29, she said the government would re-excavate old canals in Dhaka – and dig new ones – to establish a better water management system for the country’s largest city.
Following recommendations of a joint meeting among different stakeholders held at the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) on July 16, the government planned to form a separate task force to free all canals in and outside Dhaka from grabbers.
The ministries concerned are close to finalising the handover of the key responsibility of the proposed task force to the army. However, the prime minister will make the final call after sharing the matter with her colleagues at a Cabinet meeting, sources told the Dhaka Tribune.
Earlier, DNCC Mayor Annisul Huq presided over a meeting at the DNCC headquarters of urban planners, environmentalists, architects, engineers, prominent civil society members and public representatives to discuss the issue.
The meeting resolved that the prime minister’s commitment and instruction, the enforcement of law and the engagement of army would combine to reclaim the canals effectively.
The meeting was also attended by Dhaka South (DSCC) mayor Sayeed Khokon, Local Government Rural Development and Cooperatives (LGRD) Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, Housing and Public Works Minister Mosharraf Hossain and Water Resources Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud.
Other participants included Awami League lawmaker AKM Rahmatullah, Dhaka Wasa Managing Director Taqsem A Khan, Rajuk Chairman Abdur Rahman, officials of Dhaka DC Office, architects Mobasher Hossain and Iqbal Habib, Prof Mujibur Rahman of Buet, city corporation high officials and ward councillors.
At another meeting held recently at the LGRD ministry, DSCC mayor Sayeed Khokon also recommended giving the army the lead in the initiative.
Referring to the army’s success in the Hatirjheel-Begunbari Integrated Development Project, Dhanmondi lake development, Rayerbazar Graveyard and Padma Multipurpose Bridge among other mega projects, all professionals and experts recommended that they take the lead in canal recovery.
They have recommended carrying out a drive by following the Cadastral Survey (CS) record of the Dhaka DC Office, sources said.
“Wasa has been unable to resolve Dhaka’s waterlogging crisis. So the responsibility should be vested in public representatives as they are well informed of the people’s needs,” said LGRD Minister Mosharraf Hossain.
“The projects undertaken earlier did not succeed. Therefore, all bodies including the two city corporations, Dhaka Wasa, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha, Water Development Board and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation will have to engage in collaborative work and devise a master plan to resolve the problem,” he added.
Two private research organisations – the Centre for Environmental and Geographical Information Services and the Institute of Water Modelling – were engaged last year to find out ways to reduce waterlogging in Dhaka.
Both institutions recommended that all encroached water bodies be freed up.
Their study papers said the creation of 50m to 400m buffer zones on both banks of the four rivers would facilitate uninterrupted flood flow run-off, keeping the capital’s drainage undisturbed until end of the new DAP in 2036.
To ward off rapid occupation of natural drainage channels, the studies recommended banning development activities which could affect all the water bodies.