Laldighi: Witness to history
Laldighi is not only the biggest pond in Chittagong metropolitan area, it is also an important part of the history. It witnesses many historical events such as movement against British colonialism, Language Movement and the War of Liberation of Bangladesh.
The port city has lost many water bodies and ponds. Laldighi is in the row of losing water bodies.
The pond has been saved due to movement by the rights groups and environmentalists of the port city.
Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) constructed a big piling wall to divide the dighi. The retaining wall still stands in the middle of the historical Laldighi violating the court order.
The historical dighi is situated in the middle of the city under Kotwali Police Station.
In the early days of British rule the pond was dug as a big dighi.
The British government constructed a jail named Lal Ghar, northeast of Lal Kuthi. Locals call the pond Laldighi as it is situated in the middle of the Lal Kuti and Lal Ghar.
Famous historian Abdul Hoque wrote in his book titled 'Port City Chittagong' that Rai Bahadur Raj Kumar Ghose, owner of the dighi, was a famous landlord of Burma province Akiab. Later, he handed over the dighi to municipality. He hailed from village Chikdair of Raozan in Chittagong.
A mooring and a hall room was constructed in memory of English magistrate Buckland on the southern side of the pond. And in the western side of the dighi was another mooring named Rickets Ghat in memory of then commissioner Sir Henry Rickets.
A statue of Queen Victoria was constructed on one side of the dighi, which was destroyed during the anti- British movement. Later, the dighi and its premises were the centre of many movements.
Architect Ashiq Imran told The Daily Star that CCC wanted to create a silent zone and a modern recreation centre for children adjacent to the dighi. A walkway, screening through projector and with light and shade for children was designed.
“City corporation started the project in 1996 that was stopped due to fund constraint in 1998,” said Ashiq, adding that, “We had a plan of facelifting the adjoining buildings of the dighi at that time.”
After 1/11, caretaker government's adviser Anwarul Iqbal inaugurated the design and the dighi was opened for the general people, he added. CCC also planned to construct a swimming pool in the dighi.
Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers' Association (Bela), Forum for Planned Chittagong, Bangladesh Poribesh Banchao Andolan along with 15 other socio-cultural and environmentalist organisations began movement against the project.
Then CCC mayor announced that spectators of the world cup cricket, especially foreigners, will have facility of an international standard swimming pool.
High Court ordered the CCC to stop the project following a writ petition filed by Bela on May 19.
Bela Coordinator of Chittagong Anwarul Islam Chowdhury said after five or six years the dighi and the adjoining Laldighi premises will be known as swimming pool. He said the dighi would lose its historical character if they did not file case against the step.
Terming it an exemplary success, Anwarul said it is a success because they could save the historical dighi for the time being from CCC's unexpected step.
Architect Zerina Hossain, an organiser of Forum for Planned Chittagong, said value of historical places cannot be measured with money.
Zerina said swimming pool for children can be constructed in the sports complex, school or residential area. There are many places in the port city where swimming pool can be constructed, she said adding that she cannot understand why the city corporation wants to construct a swimming pool in the dighi. "Why do they want to wipe out the character and historical value of the dighi?”
Anwarul said the case is still pending with the High Court in this regard. He urged all concerned to unite to save the historical Laldighi.