Monday, 25 October, 2021

Revive waterways in and around Dhaka city

Dhaka was not so densely populated even a few decades ago. Increasing population as well as urbanisation has made Dhaka gradually densely populated. The city is still now expanding vertically as well as horizontally. In quest of job and business purposes, people of all districts have been coming to Dhaka making it overpopulated.

The traffic jam in Dhaka City is known to all. All kinds of vehicles are increasing for rapid connectivity and communication between people and places. Though various steps have been taken for expanding roads and highways for public purposes by the government, the problem of traffic jams is not ending. The situation is worsening alarmingly, as vehicles have to wait for long hours to get the green signal.

With the city roads increasingly overburdened with huge traffic, there is a growing clamor for effective measures to develop a lasting, effective and efficient circular waterway around the Dhaka City. Once upon a time, there were several rivers and canals flowing through the Dhaka City, providing a natural attractive scenery. Dhaka was once a serene and clean city with its picturesque waterfronts. Besides being surrounded by six rivers, a network of 53 canals crisscrossed through the city.

But with the passage of time, most of the canals have vanished due to continuous encroachment and indiscriminate dumping of waste, transforming the city into concrete jungle. Time has come to regain, reclaim and re-excavate the legendary canals of Dhaka which were the source of the natural water drainage system of the city and its adjacent areas. The waterbodies were also the source of public recreation and amusement by riding boats, small ships, speed-boats, etc.

The sources of water in Bangladesh can be classified as surface water, rainfall and groundwater. Our old canals were joined by the rivers Buriganga and Shitalakhya which also fall into the rivers Meghna and Jamuna. The waterway journeys were the best choice of the people for they were easy and cheaper. It was easy then because of availability of surface water bodies connected to the aforesaid rivers. We can ensure the maximum use of our surface water if we are able to regain, reclaim, re-excavate and revive our legendary waterways in and around Dhaka. It will help to reduce sudden floods in the monsoon and ensure supply of fresh water.

The roads of Dhaka city get flooded with light rain at times due to blockages in the canals of Dhaka City. Delta Plan 2100 also stressed on national and transboundary water management (Delta Plan-2100, Chapter-4). Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) can take pragmatic initiatives to introduce “Circular Waterway” around Dhaka City.

We are trying to attain Sustainable Development Goals-2030 (SDGs-2030). SDG-06 dictates that by 2030, improved water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimising release of hazardous chemical materials, eliminating untreated waste water and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally. Article SDG-6.5 asks to implement integrated water resources management at all levels by 2030, including using appropriate transboundary co-operation. If we are able to clear the waterways by excavating, regaining and reclaiming our lost rivers and canals in and around Dhaka, we will be able to introduce a circular waterway around the Dhaka City which will help reduce traffic jams on the roads and highways joining with other districts. People will enjoy the natural beauties of nature during their waterway travels.

To meet future challenges of water management: “Management of water resources has become a necessity in Bangladesh with the ever-growing demand for water and the escalating conflicts related to its alternative uses over time. Thus, for efficient utilisation of water resources, better management, identification and solution of the various multidimensional challenges that might occur in the future is of utmost importance.” (Article-4.3, Delta Plan-Volume-1)


Md. Muzibur Rahman, a columnist