The restoration work of old Buriganga channel near Kamrangirchar has not seen any significant progress in the last eight months.
The Dhaka South City Corporation began the project in June, 2022 but the initial works are yet to be completed. The project includes demarcation activities, eviction drives, re-excavation and waste disposal.
The old channel, which has lost its glory to pollution and encroachment, is located in the middle of Shahidnagar-Hazari bagh embankment (from the main Buriganga River) of Old Dhaka and Kamrangirchar.
Various structures were built occupying the two sides of the area of about 7 kilometers.
However, to give the old Buriganga back its glory, the DSCC took an initiative to reclaim the channel from encroachers in June last year. Almost a year has elapsed but the authorities are still working on the initial phase.
Also read: Re-excavation of Buriganga old channel to start in February, says Taposh
Talking to UNB, some DSCC officials said they are committed to recover the channel from illegal occupiers.
The DSCC authorities have taken a project to restore the old channel of the Buriganga, also known as the capital’s lifeline, in three phases, costing almost Tk 22 crore, they said.
They said the recovery of the channel will free Dhaka’s Hazaribagh, Lalbagh, Dhanmondi, and Kamrangirchar from waterlogging.
The seven-kilometer-long channel will also make it easier for Dhaka residents to commute from Buriganga to the Turag River and the transportation of goods will be easy due to the reduction in cost.
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According to the DSCC, walkways and separate cycle lanes will be built on both sides of the channel.
During an election rally at Kamrangirchar on December 24, 2018, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pledged to take steps to recover the old Buriganga channel from encroachers. She also instructed the mayor to take necessary measures to make it happen.
After detailed planning, the DSCC took the project to free the channel from encroachers.
According to the plan, a 14-km walkway and a cycle lane will be constructed on both sides of the channel. Bridges will be built to attract tourists in addition to the residents of the capital.
As part of the first phase, which is already underway, the authorities are working to clear the channel of silt, debris, and garbage from the sluice gate at the end of the old Buriganga to Islambag. The excavation cost of 1200 meters has been estimated at Tk 6.41.
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General Secretary of the Poribesh Bachao Andolan, Engineer Abdus Sobhan said,“The commitment (to restore the channel) is not enough. The old Buriganga channel should be excavated according to Cadastral Survey (CS) records.”
He also called on the authorities to stop the supply of electricity, water, and gas to the factories and houses built by occupying and filling the old channel and take effective steps to stop encroachment and pollution.
“We demand the establishment of permanent pillars by demarcating the boundaries of the old channel of Buriganga according to CS records,” he told UNB.
Mayor of Dhaka South City Corporation Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh said the old Buriganga channel recovery project is ongoing despite the various obstacles posed by the encroachers.
“There were many obstacles. Many cases have also been filed. Many case are pending with the High Court and are currently going ahead with the project.”
He also said the authorities are committed to recovering the old Buriganga channel as per the project.
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Terming the restoration process expensive and difficult, the DSCC mayor said, “The old Buriganga channel has been narrowed down by encroachers and polluters from all sides over the past 50 years, and this is the first time we have undertaken any project to recover the old Buriganga.
“And we have already been able to increase its width almost ten times, and our activities are ongoing,” he added.
He said the plan to introduce modern facilities such as walkways, cycle lanes and bridge will attract tourists.
“We are working to create a healthy and aesthetic environment here so that tourists can come and enjoy their time here,” Taposh said.
According to the DSCC, the initial phase of the project was started with its own financing. The authorities have also hired consultants to support the project.
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Md Md. Rasel Sabrin, DSCC chief estate officer, told UNB that buildings and institutions that have been illegally constructed occupying the old Buriganga channel have already been identified by DhakaSouth City Corporation, Rajuk, National River Conservation Commission, the Public Works Department, BIWTA, the District Administration, and the Land Record and Survey Department.
“The mayor has directed us to demolish the illegal extended part of those buildings identified,” he added.