The canals and drains of the port city have become death traps.
Owing to the negligence of authorities concerned, most of these canals and drains don’t have retaining walls or to protect slabs, posing a risk for fatal accidents.
Moreover, most of the canals and drains are filled with plastic waste, as they’re not cleaned regularly. This is why when someone falls into them, it’s immensely difficult to swim ashore, or for rescuers to come in for the save.
All of this results in an alarming frequency of fatal accidents.
Just last Monday, 12-year-old Kamal fell into a roadside drain in the Sholashahar Railway Station area and couldn’t get up. After 68 hours of search operations, his body was found in a canal in the Mirzar Pool area.
Earlier in August, 55-year-old Saleh Ahmed, a vegetable trader, slipped into the same drain at Muradpur Intersection. He has been missing ever since.
On September 27, university student Sehrin Mahbub Sadia fell into another drain at the Agrabad area. Fire service divers recovered her body four-and-a-half hours later.
For all these incidents, locals and fire service officials said the thick layer of plastic and other waste that fills up the drains made rescue operations difficult.
Farid Ahmed, sub-assistant director of fire service, led the operation to rescue Kamal. He said this thick layer of waste made it difficult for their divers to search for the boy immediately.
“We had to clean the drain first before the divers could start their work. You can understand how much time this wasted,” he told this correspondent.
Locals said many of them also tried to rescue Kamal as soon as they heard about the incident, but they couldn’t jump in for the same reason.
“When children fall into a water body in our village, we don’t have to think twice before diving into the clear water,” said Ali Akbar, a resident of the slum in Sholashahar area where Kamal’s family lives.
After Sadia’s death in September, Chattogram City Corporation (CCC) chief engineer Rafiqul Alam had told that they’re taking steps to build the walls around all risky canals and drains.
But during a visit on Friday, this correspondent found a number of canals and drains the same way they always were — open, unprotected, risky.
This was seen in the Chaktai Khal in Chawk Bazar Kitchen Market and KB Aman Ali Road areas, another canal in Jamal Khan-Chatteshawri Road, and the Birza Khal in Rahattar Pool.
Locals alleged that CCC workers do not come to clean the canals regularly. “We have not seen them in the last six months,” said Tawhid Chowdhury, a resident of Chawkbazar Phooltola.
Moreover, Trishna Dutta, another local, said, “As the canals aren’t cleaned regularly, they’ve become a safe haven for mosquito breeding.”
Contacted, Morshedul Alam Chowdhury, CCC deputy chief conservative officer, denied the allegations and said though they clean up the canals regularly, they become clogged after a few days due to garbage dumping.
Talking to the press, CCC Mayor Rezaul Karim Chowdhury said they could not build the retaining walls as the Chattogram Development Authority (CDA) is working on them, as part of the mega project to address waterlogging in the city.
Contacted, town planner Subhash Barua said the authorities concerned cannot avoid the responsibility of the deaths as they did not take any steps to prevent the accidents.
Despite repeated attempts, CCC Chief Engineer Rafiqul did not pick up his phone.