I know this topic is not as sexy a topic as those on Dr Yunus, Sheikh Hasina/Khaleda Zia and their sons or even cricket. But I dare write about it because we can no longer afford to ignore this issue.
While trying to visit Dhaka’s main water bodies this time, I came up with two interesting findings,
1. A water body, when it goes through a posh area, it is called a lake. The same thing when it enters middle class Dhaka, it renames itself as a Khal or jheel. A Gulshan resident can not tolerate a Begunbari or Meradia resident living beside a lake!!
2. Except the Dhanmondi lake (And part of Gulshan lake) most of the water bodies in Dhaka are either lined by slums (More specifically slum latrines) or small industry waste disposal system and there is no easy access to reach them.
As I grew up in north Dhaka (Then north, now probably central), I witnessed years of massive land fills eliminating water bodies, swamps from Dhaka.
Even now, the moment you leave the city limits you see low-lands spread all the way to the horizon. And alarmingly, you will not find a single water body which has not yet been marked for death by imposing signboards of real estate businesses. (Thank you Jugantor owner Mr. Babul).
Not too long ago, (less than two decades) Dhaka had an excellent naturally designed rain and sewer water management system.
At the center there was the mighty Hatirjheel. Gulshan lake system directly drained south-west into Hatirjheel and into east through Rampura Khal to Balu River. Gulshan lake system was connected to Dhanmondi lake system via the begunbari khal which then drained through katashur Khal into Turag. In the west the Katasur canal also drained Rayerbazar and Mohammadpur areas. Ramchandrapur and Dholai Khal drained old Dhaka. Within the current Dhaka business hub at Motijheel was it’s namesake Motijheel and the segunbagicha khal draining all of south central Dhaka.
Jirani Khal, Shajahanpur Khal and Mohakhali Khal used to bear the load of eastern Dhaka’s storm water. Similarly Kalyanpur, Ibrahimpur and Diabari Khal were the lifeline of north Dhaka.
Of all those vital water bodies names I just mentioned, most of are almost nonexistent now. Panthapath (Great developement work of Ershad) landfill destroyed the whole eastern portion of Begunbari Khal connecting Hatirjheel to Dhanmondi lake system. 30 meter wide Dholai Khal is now a 2.5X2.5 meter box culvert. [ Source: The daily Star]
The Hatirjheel, once owned by Bhawal Raja, was intended by the king as the water drainage system for Dhaka. 5% of original hatirjheel remains now. The Hatirjheel, which once ran from the backside of the present Sonargaon Hotel to Gulshan-1, is now being illegally occupied by Brac/ Arong, Capital Housing, Nirman International and other local land grabbers.
This is a satellite picture taken from google showing east Dhaka. The area in circle should have been hatirjheel and see what is left of it! The arrow goes parallel to the tiny threadlike remains of once mighty begunbari canal. The western portion is all obliterated thanks to Panthapath. The elliptical marking denotes area once called Rampura khal. Now that has turned into a drain, thanks to Banashree land developement by Eastern housing Ltd.
Destruction of Dhaka water bodies started about 50 years ago and it went on rampantly by the two previous generations before us. It’s about the time our generation wakes up to stop the senseless self destruction.