Beel Baghil, a canal in Savar which was once so lively with fresh water flow and aquatic biodiversity, is now completely dead thanks to unabated encroachments and pollution.
The canal has already lost all of its life saving matters, including water stream, and water quality, said local green activists. While once its natural beauty had attracted nearby dwellers, now it is spreading bad odour from untreated effluents and other pollutants, driving them away, added the activists.
Even, it is too tough for a stranger to believe that only five years ago the canal was about three kilometres in length and 200 yards in breadth which met another canal, Karnotoli Khal, before flowing into the Turag river, they said while describing the state of extinction of the water body.
The canal has now very few remnants, including some water, which is also found in several puddles with heavy pollutants during monsoon while drying up in summer, as well as a broken boat and a bamboo-made bridge symbolising its past life.
The canal also called Anandapur Beel or Genda Beel at the Eastern part of Savar, on the outskirts of the capital, had helped develop a beneficial culture in and around the villages with its water and aquatic nature because the inhabitants relied on it for their basic needs, including bathing, cleaning, irrigation, transportation and fishing, said locals.
A local, 50-year-old Abdur Razzaque Matbar of Genda area, who once fished in the water body and irrigated his farmland even in dry season now changed his profession to a vendor due to lack of fishes and fresh water. Like him over 20 families of Genda were dependent on the canal for their livelihoods but they took other professions for the same reason.
“I was always late to school every day as I with my friends swam in the canal,” Sagiruzzaman Shakik, a 40-year-old green activist, told The Daily Star recently.
The three kilometre canal was the lifeline of several villages, including Mazidpur, Emandipur, Anandopur, Rajashon, Ghashmohal, Bartartec, Sadhapur, Genda and Chakulia.
Of the three kilometres of the water body, over one kilometre from Mazidpur to Genda already has been grabbed by at least five housing companies and another one and a half kilometres are being earth filled or establishments being set up by locals and the rest half kilometre remains marshy with untreated industrial effluents, mostly being discharged by the Pakiza Dyeing and Printing Industries (Pvt) Ltd, a fabric dyeing, printing and finishing factory.
Environmentalist Shakik said some housing companies illegally filled earth in the canal violating the environment law and changed its structure. The realtors have been building establishments there 0for two to three years by earth-filling, he said.
KM Hamid Ranju, secretary of Savar-based Nodi- o-Poribesh Unnayon Parishod, blamed unplanned industrialisation for the death of the water body.
Villagers alleged that the water body started facing extinction after establishment of the Pakiza factory in 1984 in Choto Bali Mehor of Savar. The factory is still discharging untreated waste into the dead water body.
Contacted, Faruk Khan Chisti, general manager of Pakiza Dyeing, said the factory had no Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) in the past when it had released untreated effluents but now a new ETP is waiting to start operation.
Locals also alleged that housing company, Rajmahal Satellite City, “grabbed” over three-four acres of land of the canal “tactfully” by purchasing adjacent lands from locals.
Faruk Hasan Tuhin, one of the owners of Rajmahal Satellite City and central committee organising secretary of Juba League, said they had launched this project on their own lands and some lands they purchased from locals. There is no government land under this project, he claimed.
Md. Alomgir, director (enforcement) of the Department of Environment, told The Daily Star recently that Pakiza dyeing and printing factory was fined several times for polluting environment by discharging untreated effluents. In 2013, the DoE fined the factory Tk 1.52 crore and the Pakiza authorities later filed a petition with the High Court challenging the fines. With assurance of taking necessary actions against the polluters and grabbers, the DoE official suggested a coordinated effort by all, including other authorities concerned, to protect the canal.
Following a writ petition filed by Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association (Bela), the High Court in 2011 directed the authorities concerned to prevent pollution and stop encroachments of four water bodies in Savar, including Beel Baghil.
Local environmentalists also applied several times to the authorities concern against the pollution and grabbing but no action was taken to save the canal.
Shakik said not for a single time any government officials either visited the area or took any actions to protect the water body.