Rajapukur, a large pond located in the city’s Anderkilla area, is now a part of history as residential buildings get built on it.
Like Rajapukur, scores of age-old ponds, tanks and water bodies have disappeared from the map of the port city over the years due to unplanned urbanization and lax monitoring by the authorities concerned.
The natural water bodies have been filled up for construction of residential buildings, markets, bus-truck terminals and other commercial establishments.
According to a survey conducted by the District Fisheries Department in 1991, the number of water bodies in the port city stood at 19,250 while the Physical Feature Survey conducted by the
The Chittagong Development Authority in 2006-2007 revealed the existence of 4,523 water bodies there.
However, there are no recent data regarding the exact number of existing water bodies in the city.
Dewanjipukur in Dewan Bazar, Rotherpukur in Nandankan area, Moulvipukur in Chandgaon, Maillerpukur and Munshipukur in Bahaddarhat, Dammarpukur in Firingibazar, Kamaldoho Dighi in Chawkbazar, Padmapukur and Chowdhury Dighi in Kattali, to name a few, have already vanished.
The existing water bodies like Mohammadpur Boro Pukur, Ashkar Dighi, Hajar Dighi, Chowdhury Dighi and Debar Dighi are on deathbeds.
As per the Playground, Open Space, Park and Natural Water Body Protection Act 2000, filling up of any water body including ponds is a recognizable offence.
According to the law, an accused can be sentenced to either five years of imprisonment or a fine of Tk50,000, or both, if found guilty of grabbing any water body.
But according to the information provided by the Department of Environment (DoE), only six cases were lodged for encroaching on water bodies in the last 13 years. Of them, four cases are now under investigation, but the charge sheet of one case was submitted and only one case was disposed of.
However, since 2005, nobody has been jailed in cases filed in connection with grabbing water bodies.
Instead of booking a case, most of the times the DoE authorities let the offenders go with a fine.
Chittagong DoE’s Assistant Director Sangjukta Das Gupta said: “We have given show-cause notices to eight individuals from January last year till now for filling up tanks and ponds in the city. Meanwhile, we have also fined a number of individuals for grabbing ponds and tanks.”
According to Muhammad Rashidul Hasan, Assistant Professor at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology (CUET), the disappearing natural water bodies in the port city has become a matter of grave concern.
“Water congestion has turned out to be a perennial problem for the city," said Rashidul. "A pond or a tank helps ease waterlogging by retaining rainwater or storm water. Shrinking water bodies are fast depleting food chain for the birds and other animals, which poses a serious threat to the ecosystem."
“A pond comes in handy during a fire incident," said Jasim Uddin, the Deputy Assistant Director of Chittagong Fire Services. "Firefighting has turned out to be a challenging task due to the acute shortage of water body. So the illegal filling up of water bodies should be dealt with iron hands."