Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister Md Tajul Islam has identified influential encroachers and corruption as major challenges to recovering and developing canals and other water bodies in the capital.
"[For example] someone has constructed his building by encroaching on a canal. He has also changed the record of the land and legalised his illegal activities. So, issues are not so easy to solve now," he said at a seminar titled "Drainage Management and Canal Improvement in Dhaka" in the capital city.
Urban Development Journalist Forum, Bangladesh organised the programme at the Cirdap Auditorium on Saturday.
The minister also spoke on bribery by Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) officials.
"I am confident that 99% of buildings were constructed in violation of the plans," he claimed, but a Rajuk official said the figure is 96% as per a recent survey by the city development authority.
The minister blamed a lack of accountability of Rajuk officials for the violation in building construction.
He mentioned that the drainage network was built to clear 50mm rainwater but in September 2004, a maximum of 341 millimetres of rainfall was recorded.
"Though the network was built after consulting with experts, now experts are saying that it was unplanned. It will not bring any fruitful results if we criticise it," he said to the planners, engineers and architects present at the seminar.
He called upon all to work together from now on.
Architect Iqbal Habib, joint secretary of the Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa), said, "Money and technical manpower need to be transferred to the city corporations from the Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa)."
"All waste management needs to be linked with drainage and canal management activities. And finally, public engagement is a must to continue maintenance," he added.
Adil Mohammad Khan, secretary of the Bangladesh Institute of planners (BIP), suggested the inclusion of technology to keep surveillance on canals.
"One can see where and when the encroachment is happening. Then it can be stopped in a second. But authorities are not interested in using technology for fear of being exposed," he added.
BIP President Akter Mahmud presented a keynote paper at the seminar.
Presided over by Urban Development Journalist Forum President Motin Abdullah, its secretary Shohel Mamun moderated the seminar.