Disappearing Canals of Dhaka City, Bangladesh

In last 30 years, the mega City of Dhaka, the most populated Capital of the world, has lost 50 canals due to encroachments that have resulted in collapse of the natural drainage system leading to catastrophic urban flooding in normal monsoon.


Dhaka is one of the fastest growing Megacities of the World with a growth rate of 4.4% per year. Urbanization in Dhaka has been rapid and demand driven with little care given to the inevitable environmental and public health consequences of unplanned, unauthorized, and unregulated development.

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Basic Data
NameDisappearing Canals of Dhaka City, Bangladesh
SiteDhaka City
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Water access rights and entitlements
Specific CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe major canal systems in and around the capital are the (i) Degun–Ibrahimur–Kallyanpur canal that drains out to the Turag River; (ii) the Dhanmondi–Paribagh–Gulshan–Banani–Mohakhali–Begunbari canal that drains out to the Balu River, and (iii) the Segunbagicha–Gerani–Dholaikhal canal that drains out to the Balu and Buriganga rivers.

The 50 canals that once were flowing through Dhaka and are still shown in land records as canals are:

1. Abdullahpur Khal (Institute of Water Modelling (IWM) ID No. 13)

2. Baisteki Khal (IWM ID No. 21)

3. Baunia Khal (IWM ID No. 12)

4. Begun Bari khal (IWM ID No. 24)

5. Diabari Khal (IWM ID No. 14)

6. Boalia-bowfar khal (IWM ID No. 42)

7. Digun Bari khal (IWM ID No. 15)

8. Dakkhingaon-Nandipara khal (IWM ID No. 35)

9. Dhanmondi Khal(IWM ID No. 18)

10. Dholai Khal, Part-1 (IWM ID No. 29)

11. Dholai Khal (IWM ID No. 30)

12. Dumni Khal (IWM ID No. 41)

13. Gopibagh Khal (IWM ID No. 28)

14. Gerani Khal (IWM ID No. 33)

15. Hazaribagh Khal (IWM ID No. 22)

16. Gobindapur Khal (IWM ID No. 43)

17. Ibrahimpur Khal (IWM ID No. 9)

18. Gulshan-Banani Khal (IWM ID No. 16)

19. Kallyanpur Ka Khal (IWM ID No. 2)

20. Kashibari-Uttara R. Way Boropit Khal (IWM ID No. 47)

21. Kallyanpur Kha Khal (IWM ID No. 3)

22. Kashibari-Boalia Khal (IWM ID No. 48)

23. Kallyanpur Gha Khal (IWM ID No. 4)

24. Khilgaon-Basabo Khal (IWM ID No. 32)

25. Kallyanpur Uma Khal (IWM ID No. 5)

26. Khilkhet Boalia Khal (IWM ID No. 49)

27. Kallyanpur Cha Khal (IWM ID No. 6)

28. Kuril-Boalia Khal (IWM ID No. 50)

29. Kallyanpur Main khal (IWM ID No. 1)

30. Manda Khal (IWM ID No. 34)

31. Kalsi Khal (IWM ID No. 10)

32. Meradia-Gojaria khal (IWM ID No. 36)

33. Kamrangir Char Khal (IMO ID No. 23)

34. Nasirabad- Nandipara khal (IWM ID No. 37)

35. Katasur khal (IWM ID No. 8)

36. Nandipara-Trimohoni Khal (IWM ID No. 38)

37. Mohakhali Khal (IWM ID No. 17)

38. Norail Khal (IMO ID No. 25)

39. Mirpur Housing Khal (IWM ID No. 45)

40. Shahajadpur Khal (IWM ID No. 40)

41. Paribag Khal (IWM ID No. 19)

42. Shajahanpur Khal (IWM ID No. 31)

43. Ramchandrapur Khal (IWM ID No. 7)

44. Segunbagicha- Arambagh Khal (IWM ID No. 26)

45. Rayerbazar Khal (IMO ID No. 20)

46. Segunbagicha Khal (IWM ID No. 27)

47. Sangbadik Colony Khal (IWM ID No. 44)

48. Sutivola Khal (IWM ID No. 39)

49. Sec-8 (Digun Khal, Rupnagar) (IWM ID No. 46)

50. Sec. 14 Ibrahipur Khal (IWM ID No. 11)
Project Area (in hectares)1,990
Level of Investment (in USD)N/A
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Population16 million
Start Date01/02/2015
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Land; Ministry of Environment and Forest; Ministry of Water Resources; Ministry of Housing and Public Works; Dhaka City Corporation (North); Dhaka City Corporation (South); National River Protection Commission; Department of Environment; Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority; Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha; Bangladesh Water Development Board; Deputy Commissioner, Dhaka; Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersBangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA)


Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA)

The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Social movements
Forms of MobilizationLawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow)
OtherThe virtual collapse of the natural drainage system of the City has not only affected the 16 million City dwellers with urban flooding but has also affected the traditional livelihood earners like the boatmen, fishermen and so on. Although no concrete study has been undertaken, it is obvious that depletion of the surface water flows has affected the aquifer, a crisis that has already been discussed in the Parliament.
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
OtherPoor communities having no access to alternative sources of water use the contaminated water of these canals that give them skin diseases and intestinal problems. The stagnant water of the canals have turned into breeding grounds for mosquitoes leading to water borne diseases like malaria, diarrhea .
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
OtherIt has been reported in the national media that in connivance with the land administration offices, influentials have grabbed the lands of the canals and have built structures thereon. Land office is accepting taxes from the grabbers and paving ways for them to strengthen their illegal possession. The government is now planning to recover five canals not by punishing or evicting the encroachers but by purchasing back lands from them although the same clearly belonged to the government and have been grabbed. While waterlogging causes terrible sufferings to office and school goers and other commuters, accidents happened when pedestrians fell into uncovered manholes under clogged water. With grabbing of wetlands like the canals, the blue lines of the over populated City have disappeared and some potential sources of recreation lost.
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Land demarcation
Court decision (undecided)
Under negotiation
Development of AlternativesA Writ Petition (16898/2017) has been filed by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) before the Supreme Court of Bangladesh seeking restoration of the 50 canals of Dhaka by demarcating the same as per their original flows, removing all encroachments and structures including box culverts from the canals, and protecting them under a time bound action plan. On 4th December, 2017 a division bench of the High Court has issued a show cause on the government to clarify as to why their failure to protect the Canals from encroachments, obstructions and pollution shall not be declared unlawful and against the public interest, and why they shall not be forthwith directed to protect and restore the said Canals by removing the encroachments and harmful structures and pollutants. The Court also directed the government agencies to prepare and submit before it (i) a report on the status of the Canals, and (ii) a time-bound action plan for recovering and restoring the Canals. The report shall have to be submitted in six months time from the date of issuance of the Rule.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The final decision will come from the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. Given the complications created in the land records and the powerful actors involved in the grabbing, restoration of all 50 canals shall be extremely challenging. Meanwhile, the government has just approved a project that is aiming to bring back flows in 5 canals. This costly project may be over-publicized by the executive through drum beating causing delay in restoration of the remaining canals. Further, the costs of eviction is prohibitive and the move of the government to purchase lands from the grabbers may give legitimacy to the occupiers who will try to drag on by engaging into litigation.
Sources and Materials

The Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995 and the rules of 1997 made thereunder; the Bangladesh Water Development Board Act, 2000; the National River Protection Commission Act, 2013; the Bangladesh Water Act, 2013
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Encroachment of Canals of Dhaka City, Bangladesh: An investigative Approach
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Wetlands of Dhaka City: Its Past and Present Scenario
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Canals of Dhaka
[click to view]

World Bank Report
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Down with downpour
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A City dying
[click to view]

Other Documents

MAP Canals of Dhaka Map
[click to view]

Hazaribagh Khal
[click to view]

Court Order Canals of Dhaka
[click to view]

[click to view]

Down with downpour
[click to view]

A City Dying
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorSyeda Rizwana Hasan, BELA, [email protected]
Last update16/04/2018