Port city residents are deprived of parks and planned recreational places although it is a city to which nature has endowed all its beauties. There are only six parks in the city for around six million people.
Of the parks, people have free access to only three, including the Jatisangha Park. However, this park, operated by Chattogram City Corporation (CCC), has been in a sorry state for more than three years due to an ownership dispute.
Located in Panchlaish area, Jatisangha Park is the only recreational place for residents of Panchlaish, Chawk Bazar, Katalganj and Joy Nagar areas, said locals.
PARK OR LANDFILL?
During a recent visit, this correspondent saw that most of the place was filled with dense bushes. There was piled up earth at one corner, which has turned into slippery mud. Also, water remained stagnant over the muddy walkway.
The benches, where people used to sit and relax, have been displaced while the boundary wall was knocked down. An eerie silence hovers over the place, which once used to be filled with chirping of birds and children’s laughter.
Only a handful of visitors were seen at the park.
“My son wanted to play outside so I brought him here,” said Samir Barua. Saurabh, his six-year-old son, was visibly disappointed seeing its condition.
Samir said he moved to the capital around 10 years ago and while visiting his home town recently, he decided to bring his son here.
“I haven’t visited the place in a while. It looks more like a landfill now,” said Samir, adding, “This park used to be a must-visit place for us all.”
“There used to be a pond surrounded by a walkway. Children used to run around freely by the garden,” he reminisced.
Residents of the area also shared his sentiments. Abdul Aziz, a local, said the authorities must take initiatives to save the park.
According to sources, 12 people are appointed to look after the park. It remains open from 4pm to 8pm daily, said security guard Bipul Barua. He said around 20-25 people visit the park every wday.
CCC constructed a swimming pool in place of the pond in 2013. Almost half the area of the two-acre park was taken up to build the pool, which according to locals, remained mostly unused.
Town Planner Subhash Barua said the pool was constructed in an unplanned way. “When CCC initiates any project, the authorities do not seek advice from town planners,” alleged Barua, also vice-president of Forum for Planned Chattogram.
The authorities have to take immediate measures to save the park, he stressed.
Wishing anonymity, a CCC councillor said Jatisangha Park was leased out to a private firm for its development in 2016 but Public Works Department (PWD) filed a case against it, claiming ownership of the park.
The company started filling the park with earth but the work was stopped in the middle due to the case, he said. Since then, the park has been in this dismal state.
Md Shahjahan, executive engineer of PWD, said the case is still pending with a Chattogram court.
He said Panchlaish Residential Area Welfare Association also filed a petition with the High Court against CCC’s move to lease out the park to a private organisation.
“We have submitted a proposal to the planning ministry to develop the park but the planning commission did not allow us to do so as two cases were pending with the court over the issue,” he said.
Contacted, Abu Syed Selim, general secretary of the welfare association, said they filed the petition as they are against any initiative to use the park as a commercial space.
“We also want the park to be developed but it should remain free for all to visit and a non-commercial recreational spot,” he added.
Asked, Md Shamsuddoha, chief executive officer of CCC, said the tug-of-war between CCC and PWD will end soon, as they have talked with PWD high officials regarding the issue.
“We have designed a plan to renovate the park,” he said, adding, “We will sit with PWD officials and other experts to discuss it.”
About the demand of Panchlaish welfare association, Shamsuddoha said CCC will also meet with them to hear their opinions.