Even three decades ago, the aerial view of the port city of Chattogram could be made out distinctively. The green undulating city interspersed with hills and hillocks, its sparsely populated vast areas with few high-rises and the sea-rimmed Patenga kept it apart from the stifling capital. When Dhaka had been all but declared unliveable by its long-time residents, the country's second largest city Chattogram still kept drawing people from outside. Over the years, with its maddening increase in population, unplanned development, the hill-levelling and the ubiquitous shanties on the slopes of the remaining hills, Chattogram could hardly be told from Dhaka. In the recent years, the scourge of water-logging in large swathes of the city has made it literally indistinguishable from the capital.
The uncanny resemblance is being caused by a common scourge --- stagnancy of rain water. Moreover, high-tide water adds to the woes of Chattogram's water-logging. Like in Dhaka, the culprit in the port city has long been identified as encroachments on its small and big canals. The episode of Dhaka vis-à-vis its canal re-excavations and freeing them of encroachers is markedly disappointing. Except for a few isolated and slipshod attempts to reclaim at least a few out of its 26 vital canals, the sector doesn't offer an upbeat picture. Similarly, the national print and electronic media continue to broadcast reports on the grim fallout of the canal encroachments and their disappearance in Chattogram. Areas submerged in days-old clogged water giving out revolting stench from municipal waste are now a common malady in the port city.
In many respects, Chattogram's growth as an ideal and modern city is vital to the country's progress. It has the country's major seaport, the main gateway to the outside world by sea. With a view to transforming it into a modern worldclass port, the government has undertaken several mega plans. Those include a Bay Terminal. Among others, the Bay Terminal will have one 1,500-metre multipurpose terminal and one 1,225-metre container terminal. The project will have provisions for 13 jetties having capacity to accommodate vessels of up to 280-metre long. The expressway tunnel under the Karnaphuli River is another massive project adjacent to the port. To speak pithily, rather shabby urban neighbourhoods cannot be allowed to stay in a city dreaming of a port of global importance.
Against this backdrop, the demolition of buildings and concrete structures impeding or stopping the flow of canals in Chattogram speaks of a resolve to keep the city free of water-logging. The Chattogram Development Authority (CDA) has shouldered the responsibility. Much to the expectation of city residents, the CDA has swung into action in the port city recently, beginning with the Muradpur area. One expects the task will also be extended to the city's other areas. The assignment is long and arduous. It includes re-excavation of the canals, their expansion, as well as their overall development. The authorities hope the canal renovation works will remarkably ease water-logging in the port city. According to a study, over 1,500 illegal structures have been identified alongside canals in Chattogram. With the start of its operation at Muradpur, the CDA is expected to execute its plan to re-excavate all of the Chattogram city's 16 major canals.