Human Chain Demands Restoration of Mohammadpur, Basila, Rayerbazar, and West Dhanmondi Canals

On June 11, 2024, at 11:00 AM, a human chain was formed at the mouth of the Haikkar Canal with demands to save Haikkar Canal, Lautala Canal, Basila Uttarpara Canal, Bibi Canal, Chandrima Canal, and Atikhal Canal and to save the Buriganga River. The event was jointly organized by the environmental and climate change citizens’ organization “Dhoritri Rokkhay Amra” (DHORA), Buriganga Riverkeeper, Buriganga Nodi Morcha, and the residents of Basila.
The human chain was presided over by Sharif Jamil, member secretary of DHORA and Buriganga Riverkeeper, an environmental and human rights activist, and moderated by DHORA member Mamun Kabir. Guests included Assistant Professor Mir Mohammad Ali, Chair of the Aquaculture Department at Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, and Faisal Ahmed, editor of River Bangla. Solidarity speeches were given by Umme Salma, General Secretary of “Nirapad Chikitsa Chai” and a member of Buriganga Nodi Morcha, Israt Jahan Lata, Chair of Bonolota Women Development Organization, Amzad Ali Lal, President of the Aminbazar Ghat Workers Union and leader of Turag Nodi Morcha, and Mahir Dayan, a volunteer for Buriganga Riverkeeper. Local residents who spoke included Manik Hossain, former president of the managing committee of Basila Old Government Primary School, Swapan Rajbangshi, president of the Jelepura Temple Committee, Gopal Rajbangshi, a fisherman leader, and Tazul Islam, a local resident living by the Buriganga River.
Sharif Jamil stated that the life of a river is intertwined with small rivers, branches, tributaries, and canals. If these are cut off, floodplains filled, and canals left to die, our settlements will face danger. If canals are not recovered, rivers die. Just as a person cannot live without limbs, a river cannot survive without these canals. The people of Dhaka cannot survive with just buildings and roads if there is no supply of drinking water. He also mentioned that the construction of walkways without consulting the riverbank communities has endangered their lives and livelihoods. Trees are being cut for these walkways, which is unacceptable. Development should protect the environment and not destroy the lives and livelihoods of those connected to the river.

Mir Mohammad Ali remarked that while we dream of a happy and prosperous Bangladesh, the legalization of multi-story buildings and illegal occupants along the Buriganga banks only benefits a select few, making those who have lived by the river for years unhappy and disconnected from river-based life and livelihood. The coming monsoon season will exacerbate the waterlogging problems for these people.
Faisal Ahmed pointed out that sustainable development is impossible if we destroy nature and wildlife, and such development will never last. Eventually, we will all be affected by it. The sooner we realize that we must not destroy life and nature for development, the better off we will be.
Umme Salma stated that nobody knows the name Haikkar Canal anymore because there is no canal there now. To save the Buriganga, we must restore Haikkar Canal and other canals.
Israt Jahan Lata commented that we are gradually harming ourselves. Both the government and those occupying canals and building houses are causing self-damage. We knowingly put ourselves in danger, but no one stands up. We must stand up for the sake of future generations.
Amzad Ali Lal said that there used to be 600 boats here, but now there are only 3. Just as you are destroying canals and rivers with dams, we will also be destroyed in the same way.
Mahir Dayan mentioned that waste and illegal occupation have destroyed the navigability of every river. Appropriate measures must be taken to restore the livelihoods of those dependent on these canals and rivers and maintain economic balance.
Manik Hossain said that to save the Buriganga River, Haikkar Canal, which connects through the Shri Khand Mouza of Basila in Mohammadpur to the Rayerbazar Martyr’s Memorial Cemetery, Lautala Canal, and Ramchandrapur Canal, needs to be restored. The Basila Uttarpara Canal is a branch of Haikkar Canal. Another branch is Bibi Canal. Additionally, Chandrima Canal, Lautala Canal, and Atikhal Canal in Mohammadpur, Basila, Rayerbazar, and West Dhanmondi areas are in ruins and nearly dead due to various development projects and encroachments.

Local residents also complained that they have no canals or fish. The destruction of the Buriganga is destroying their lives and livelihoods. The walkway along the riverbank has cut off their relationship with the river. There is no way to retrieve their poultry or livestock if they fall into the river. They live in constant fear that they will not be able to rescue their children if they fall into the water.
The president of the Jelepura Temple Committee complained that their two-hundred-year-old temple, where the Hindu community of Basila used to perform rituals and immerse deities, has no place left for such activities. Where will we go now?
The human chain called for the restoration of Haikkar Canal, Basila Uttarpara Canal, Chandrima Canal, Lautala Canal, and Atikhal Canal, and the removal of the walkways destroying the lives and livelihoods of the people connected to the river in Mohammadpur, Basila, Rayerbazar, and West Dhanmondi areas.