Once an exhilarating source of natural beauty and clear water, the Shyama Sundari canal, flowing across the northern city of Rangpur, has turned into a source of misery for the city people because of human activity over the years.
According to locals, the 16-kilometre canal has become a breeding ground of mosquitoes. Besides, the canal overflows and causes flooding and water-logging in the city if it rains, as it has been narrowed.
Widespread encroachment, dumping of wastes, and a lack of re-excavation were responsible for such a condition of the canal, said people concerned.
Md Mofazzal Hossain, a resident of the city, said mosquito menace had increased tremendously.
"You cannot stay at home even during the day without mosquito nets or mosquito repellent, and as soon as the evening approaches, the situation becomes worse. If Shyama Sundari is not renovated, this miserable situation will not change," said Mofazzal.
Another resident, Mahabub Mia, who lives on the bank of the canal, said the canal was excavated in 1890 by Janaki Vallabh, the then king of Dimla. It was inaugurated by Sir Stuart Kevin Bailey.
Garbage and 482 people had occupied Shyama Sundari canal, alleged Mahabub.
Nasir Uddin of the city's CO Bazar area said, "The canal was once 40-90 feet wide, but it has been narrowed down to 6-8 feet."
Some residents had connected the sewerage system of their house to the canal, he added.
"The renovation of the canal has been ruined due to irregularities. Shyama Sundari has brought misery to us as it has not been re-excavated for a long time. Public representatives make promises in every election but they forget those after winning the election," said another local Shajahan Ali.
Md Ruhul Amin Mia, chief executive officer of Rangpur City Corporation, said Rangpur Municipality had excavated the canal in fiscal 2007-08. Later, the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) started the renovation of Shyama Sundari canal and construction of walkways and bridges over it at a cost of Tk27 crore in 2012. But the work did not proceed.
Later, in the 2018-19 fiscal year, the Rangpur Water Development Board undertook a project to re-excavate the canal, Ruhul Amin continued.
The water development board dug about 2.5 kilometres of the canal spending Tk3.5 crore, he said.
However, mosquito menace had increased also because of another canal named KD, he said, adding it had not been renovated either.
Md Emdad Hossain, a supervising engineer of the Rangpur City Corporation, said four bridges were being reconstructed over the Shyama Sundari canal.
Water flow of the canal could be interrupted due to this construction, and an increase in mosquito population might also occur, he said.
However, Md Mostafizur Rahman Mostafa, mayor of the city, said, "The government has allocated around Tk100 crore for re-excavation and renovation of the canal."
Shyama Sundari canal would be restored and beautified, he assured.
He also said mosquito eradication activities were being carried out in each ward with 10 fogger machines. It had been proposed to purchase six more fogger machines, he added.