The golden past of the Brahmanbaria town canal reminds us of a time when bathing and fishing in the canal water used to be a daily sight for its residents. Many boats – big and small – used to sail on the canal, which snaked through 5 km of Brahmanbaria sadar.
The town canal was dug by connecting it with the traditional river Titas of Brahmanbaria to facilitate drainage and navigation during British rule. However, now the canal is no longer in its traditional form.
The canal has turned into a narrow drain due to the illegal installation of CC blocks on both sides of the canal, encroachment, regular deposition of household garbage, and pollution for the last 7-8 years.
Because of the loss of navigability and extreme pollution, the canal is now in peril.
"There was a time when I used to take regular bath in the water of the town canal with my friends. Sometimes, I even used to catch fishes with a spear. However, the canal is now almost dead only due to the indifference of the authorities.
"Garbages from city houses, hotels, and restaurants are being regularly dumped in the canal. But there is no one to pay any attention to all these," said Arifur Rahman, a resident of the Kazipara area of Brahmanbaria town.
He demanded re-excavation and restoration of the canal to its former condition.
According to the locals, there is no exact information available regarding the establishment year and excavating cost of the canal. The length of the canal dug from Jagat Bazar to Gokarnaghat is 4.80 km. The width of the canal varies from place to place. However, its average width is 90 feet. The canal joins the Titus River on both sides.
Earlier, the town canal used to be brimmed with water during the monsoon season; water currents could be seen every time wind passed by the stream. Mischievous children used to jump into the canal from a high bridge in the Kazipara area of the city. Pedestrians were seen on the bridge enjoying the scenario and rejoicing at the mischievousness of the children, the locals stated while being nostalgic for the canal's glorious past.
Many locals used to make a living by fishing in the canal. Besides, many people used to travel by boat through this canal. Passenger and cargo boats used to ply from the Jagat Bazar boat dock every morning till evening.
The plight of the canal mostly started in 2006. At that time, Brahmanbaria Municipality authorities installed CC blocks on both sides of the canal from Jagat Bazar to the Kazipara area of the city in the name of beautification of the canal. As the width of the canal shrank, it created a navigability crisis. In addition, the re-excavation of the canal has now become complicated due to the installation of blocks.
However, during FY 2016-17, the district council authorities took the initiative to beautify the canal. At that time, the garbage accumulated in the canal was cleaned, and some places of the canal were excavated at the cost of Tk10 lakh. However, the pollution started again after a few days. As a result, the canal gradually turned into a narrow drain.
At present, there is not sufficient water in the canal for plying boats even during the rainy season. Various organisations and eminent personalities have demanded to re-excavate the town canal and restore it to its former condition. But the authorities have always been indifferent no matter what, the locals added.
Shamim Ahmed, president of the Brahmanbaria district branch, social organisation on river safety "Nongor," said, "The canal had been pushed towards destruction by installing CC blocks. The blockage has reduced the width of the canal as well as created a navigability crisis."
He demanded that the canal be re-excavated at the level of the Titas River by removing the blocks and demarcating the canal after removing illegal structures on both sides of the canal.
Brahmanbaria Municipality Mayor Nair Kabir said, "Town canal is a part of the heritage of Brahmanbaria. I do not know how the then mayor of the municipality installed CC blocks on both sides of the canal. However, this condition of the canal is due to the block.
"Attempts are now being made to remove illegal structures on both sides of the canal and restore it to its former glory. A letter has been sent to the concerned department regarding the matter."
Regarding the canal's restoration, Brahmanbaria District Council Chief Executive Officer Aminul Islam said, "Apart from installing CC block, some parts of the canal have been paved. It is a complicated task to re-excavate the canal. However, we are sincere in bringing the canal back to its former condition. We are in discussions with the district administration to take effective steps in this regard."