It used to be that the people of Tangail, in leisure time with family and friends or even in search of solitude would head to the Sagardighi tank. The water body in Ghatail upazila that legend says was dug during the reign of a 'King Sagar,' during the ancient Pal dynasty was renowned for natural beauty. In recent years, from unrestricted commercial activities and land grabbing, Sagardighi is sadly but a shadow of its former self.
Many locals can remember a time when they would regularly cool off on scorching summer days by taking a swim there. Originally of course the public even drank its crystal clear water. On windy days Sagardighi was art in action as waves rocked to and fro. At calmer times it emanated charm and enchantment.
Each spring, on the 12th day of the Bengali month of Chaitra, when Hindus gather some few kilometres away for worship at an ancient tamal tree believed to have been visited by Lord Krishna, a dip in Sagardighi's pristine waters was an accompanying, welcome rite.
Nowadays, Sagardighi suffers from random fish farms in it and illegal homes, buildings and poultry farms along its banks. What could have been a site with tourism potential is all but ruined.
Operated by influential locals, the fish farms involve the dumping of artificial feed in the tank. Thanks to the poultry farms on the eastern and western sides, which also generate considerable waste, the once pure air stinks.
A government rest house belonging to the Local Government Engineering Department has been built on its western bank; a police outpost on the eastern side; a girls' high school to the north; and a madrassa at its southern edge.
“Annual fish farm leases are granted by the office of the deputy commissioner in Tangail,” informs Ghatail's upazila nirbahi officer, Shaheen Abul Kashem. “The public buildings have been built in the public interest and do not harm the water body. As far as I know, the poultry farms and houses are beyond the limits of the Sagardighi reserve, though none can deny the farms pollute the area.”
“The upazila administration and upazila parishad have already taken steps to revitalise the site,” he continues. “About a month ago we applied through the deputy commissioner to the tourism ministry to establish Sagardighi as a tourist spot. If that happens proper regulation of surrounding activities should fall into place.”
Sagardighi, legend has it, was dug by 200 labourers following a wise king's edict. It was designed to be an asset for local people at a time when the area was covered in dense forest and drinking water was scarce. It was still an asset when people could enjoy the tank for picnics and recreation. It's unfortunate to see and smell Sagardighi now, shackled by unrestrained development and, for the first time in the centuries since it was dug disregarded, treated not as an asset but almost as a liability.