CDA, railway duet with grabbers | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 21, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 21, 2011

Agrabad Water Reservoir Under Threat

CDA, railway duet with grabbers

Agrabad Deba, one of the biggest water reservoirs in the cities of the country. Photo: Anurup Kanti Das

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Agrabad Deba, one of the rare and biggest ponds among the cities of the country, is under threat due to pollution and encroachment.
The water reservoir, popularly known as Agrabad Deba, was dug for the railway and port employees as well as the city dwellers during the British period to carry out their daily chores and other activities. Bangladesh Railway is owner of the water reservoir on about 14 acres of land in the Agrabad commercial area beside Sheikh Mujib Road in the port city.
A residential area of the Chittagong port is situated on the north side of the Deba.
Locals alleged that a politically influential quarter is occupying the banks and its adjoining lands.
Though there are houses for the railway employees on the south and east portion of the Deba, this politically influential quarter has constructed illegal slums and rented those to the poor.
In the name of Chhinnomul Bastibasi Parishad, this quarter is also trying to occupy the banks and fill the pond, the locals added.
This correspondent found that many illegal slums have been constructed on the southern bank of the Deba. An office of Chhinnomul Bastibasi Sangram Parishad has also been illegally constructed at the southeast corner of it.
Locals said slums have been constructed in the residential area of the third and fourth class employees of Bangladesh Railway while the grabbers have started occupying the east, west and north banks of the pond.
The grabbers have constructed shops and other structures, including mosque, on the banks of the water body, they added.
Hundreds of people take their bath and carry out their daily chores in the pond daily, they said.
Shajahan, a local betel leaf shop owner, said the government and the authorities concerned can change present scenario of the water reservoir turning it into a recreational place.
“It seems to me it is just negligence of the authorities concerned,” he said, adding, “And it is helping the grabbers to occupy the banks through constructing illegal structures.”
According to detailed area plan (DAP), Chittagong Development Authority (CDA) proposed to construct a walkway surrounding the Deba and relocate the squatters to make a recreational centre, landscaping the area for promoting tourism.
Rajib, a former student of Chittagong University (CU), said a plan to construct a recreation centre and a park here by CDA is not progressing for reasons unknown.
He said if a park like open space surrounding the water body is constructed there, it would attract visitors and tourists as well as help free the pond from pollution.
Moreover, CDA has also proposed to allocate 60 acres of land under DAP to construct two 20-storey buildings on both the sides of the water reservoir to be used as an observation tower by visitors.
CDA Chief Engineer Iqbal Hossain told The Daily Star that now they are not interested in taking any initiative about it as they are facing many obstacles.
“The water bodies are preserved abroad keeping in mind the aesthetic sense and a part of modern urbanisation but here we are facing problem as owner of the water body is Bangladesh Railway,” he added.
Iqbal said the proposal should be implemented by both the railway and CDA to preserve the Deba. If railway hands it over to CDA, they would go ahead with their own plan to save the water body.
Divisional State Officer Md Rashid of Bangladesh Railway said they lease out the water body to individuals every year without any specific plan to preserve it.
When asked about the illegal structures and slums, he said they would launch an eviction drive against the grabbers.
Dr Alok Paul, chairman of Geography and Environmental Science of CU, said waterlogging is an immense environmental hazard of the port city and disappearance of a water body is a threat to the urban environment as they are part of “urban micro-climate and urban hydrology.”
Pointing on the aesthetic value of the water body, Dr Alok said there are very few big water bodies in the centre of a city across the world like it, so everybody, including railway and CDA, and even DoE, has to come forward to save the Deba from pollution and grabbing.

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