DNCC canals demarcation in limbo
The Dhaka North City Corporation has failed to demarcate 29 canals along with a retention pond under it to reclaim the water bodies from encroachers and free them from pollution as a yearlong project for their demarcation expired in December 2022.
The DNCC has just installed pillars around only 17 per cent of the water bodies under the project objective that includes the identification of illegal occupiers, sources of pollution and preparation of a web portal using the geographic information system.
The DNCC has engaged the Bangladesh Army’s 14 Independent Engineer Brigade — 12 Engineer Battalion, 57 Engineer Company — and an ad-hoc construction supervision consultant to demarcate the canals in accordance with the British-era Cadastral Survey map under the Tk 27.74 crore project.
Dhaka north city mayor Atiqul Islam told New Age on Saturday that they were not able to complete the canal demarcation on time due to some legal complexities.
The High Court has issued directives to protect rivers as per the CS map, but why the same should not be applicable for canals, the mayor questioned.
‘Many people have become the owner of the land according to the city survey. Many people are coming to us as the pillars installed fell in their lands in the city survey. We have no other option but to look up the High Court order. We could not be able to save the city without following the CS map,’ mayor Atiq explained.
Asked if there are any CS maps of Dhaka city canals with the land offices, he said, ‘It is difficult to find CS maps that were prepared in 1860. We have given the job to the Bangladesh Army for the demarcation using GPS for a speedy work.’
He also said that if the problem was solved, they could finish the task soon.
The project’s original duration was from January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022 for installing 1,910 pillars but only 323 pillars were installed till January 31, 2023, which is about 17 per cent of the entire project work, according to DNCC officials.
The DNCC extended the deadline till June 30, 2023 for completing the demarcation of the canals that include Diabari Khal at Uttara, Ibrahimpur Khal at Mirpur, Ramchandrapur Khal at Mohammadpur, Sutikhola Khal at Aftabnagar, Baunia Khal at Mirpur and Rupnagar Prodhan Khal in the Rupnagar residential area.
The project components included the establishment of ground control points, drone survey, preparation of orthophoto using GCPs, alignment of all mouza map sheets using GCPs, preparation of a GIS database and construction of pillars.
In a 2009 directive, the High Court asked the government to follow the CS and the RS records while carrying out the demarcation of four rivers surrounding the capital.
The DNCC has received about 300 complaints from various people and organisations in the demarcation process of city canals after installing pillars, said DNCC officials.
Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association chief executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan said that there was no bar to reclaiming canals using the CS map as many had occupied canals.
‘There is no credibility of the city survey. A man managed papers of the CS map on the river Turag under his ownership. If anyone receives something like this, no cost will be added for this. There might be some land officials involved in the process of issuing such papers,’ she pointed out.
She said that many people bought land from others without verifying the authenticity of the land’s ownership and they might have been deceived.
Urban planners urged the city authority to speed up the canal demarcation project to ensure dealing with matters of grabbing and pollution.
They further said that it should also be checked whether the contractor was making delays or the city authority was not releasing funds.
Urban planner architect Iqbal Habib said that if the authorities could not demarcate the canals in time ‘when will they excavate those canals and build walkways to stop further grabbing?’
‘I think that it might be a lack of proper monitoring that is delaying the project implementation. If the work progress was monitored every month, the progress would have been better now. The demarcation should be done before monsoon. We have to excavate those canals to create blue connectivity for improving the city drainage system,’ the urban planner observed.
Jahangirnagar University urban planning professor Adil Mohammed Khan, also executive director of the Institute for Planning and Development, said that although installing pillars for demarcation was a traditional trend, the city authority should speed up the project work.
‘We need to find out why it is being delayed. It is either the negligence of the contractor or fund shortage from the city authority,’ he added.
There are a total of 40 canals in Dhaka city while 29 are under the Dhaka North City Corporation and 11 under the Dhaka South City Corporation, according to officials.
The executive committee of the National Economic Council on October 11, 2022 approved a Tk 899 crore project for restoring four DSCC canals.
The DSCC project is aimed at removing water stagnation and improving environment through beautification of some 20-kilometre length of the four canals — Kalunagar, Jirani, Manda and Shyamnagar khals.