Wednesday, March 9, 2011

               Linear Park - An initiative to save the Peri-Urban River in Khulna 

River Moyur in Khulna has been central to providing very important ecological services to the urban and peri-urban communities. However, due to dumping of urban and industrial wastes during the recent decade, this river has lost its natural beauty and hence its ecological services. Besides illegal encroachments on the river bank, agricultural practices and unplanned infrastructure development (e.g. bridges and regulators) have also affected the natural flow regime of the river. In Khulna, river Moyur is the only source of freshwater for both urban as well as peri-urban residents which is why the civil society, Local Government and Non-governmental Organisations have been trying to save this important river. One of the recent attempts at protecting the river involves the development of land for the construction of a linear park along its western course by the Khulna City Corporation (KCC). In order to understand people’s perceptions regarding this park, a daylong survey was conducted and several interesting and varied stakeholder opinions were observed. 

River Moyur in Khulna is being badly polluted due to urban waste dumping and encroachments.This has increased the vulnerability of the poor urban and peri-urban residents living close to the river course.   

Markets such as these meat shops have developed on
the river at Gallamary Kacha Bazar causing serious
degradation of the river. Local marginal people have
been losing ecological services from the river.
Medical waste from this clinic is dumped 
in the river near Gallamary  bridge site at
Khulna. Unnecessary infrastructure like iron
pipes in the middle of the river channel cause
siltation and blockage in the natural river flow. 
Clearly there is an uncertainty regarding the reason this park is being built for. One of the respondents included a rickshaw puller who claimed to have been displaced without fair compensation for the construction of the park. Many believe that the linear park will be a good recreational space for the people residing in nearby areas since currently there is no such place around. “It would be a perfect area for morning walk and nice place to rewind in the evenings, but strong maintenance and security would need to be ensured,” said Mr. Latif, a banker. Although she has not heard anything about the park, Mrs. Jannat Ara, a house wife, feels that it would be a good place for recreation but she worries if there is going to be adequate security for women. Mr. Bappy, a student of Khulna University believes that the Linear Park must be built to save the Moyur River as well as to ensure that the river side is developed in an environment friendly manner. “This river must be saved for the sake of our existence, the park will lessen the pollution along with being a safe place for public use,” he said. A student of Khulna University’s Fisheries and Marine Resource Technology Discipline, who resides near this area believes that the park will not only enhance the beauty of this entire residential area but will also reduce the pollution load in the Mayur River. She believes the aquatic environment of the river is in dire need of being saved and development of the Park will be a great step towards environmental sustainability. Many small-scale businessmen, especially those who have been dislocated greatly oppose this idea since it interferes with their businesses and they complain about not having being given proper rehabilitation. 

A group of motor drivers at Sondanga bus stand (close to the river) allegedly stated that the new Kachabazar in the Sonadanga area has worsened the environmental condition of the Mayur for which they had requested KCC authority to shift the bazar from this area. They believe that shifting this bazaar is more important than constructing this park immediately.

Apart from these specific issues, people have general concerns on how the park would be managed once it is constructed. Mr. Shadan Mallik, a banker, says, “This is a welcome step, but the river must be protected from encroachment, as well as the drains that empty wastewater into this river must be to a shifted to a suitable place outside the city.”

 Text and Pictures - Uthpal Kumar
 Edited by - Vasundhara Dash

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