CUMILLA: The owner of Wazir Dighi has decided to fill the 300-year-old pond in Cumilla for constructing a community centre, a coffee house and a market.
Located in the heart of the city (ward 5), the historical dighi (a large pond) is losing its existence since two-thirds of its water has already been pumped-out, alleged locals.
Two pump machines were installed last week to remove its water, they said, adding that Cumilla Sadar Upazila Assistant Commissioner (Land) recently visited the dighi and stopped that.
Security guard of Wazir Dighi, Abdul Matin, said to this correspondent, "AKM Mohsin a resident of Mogaltuli of Cumilla city, had bought the dighi some three years ago. He is a businessman and lives in Dhaka."
Attempts have been made to contact AKM Mohsin. But he was unreachable for commenting on the filling of the century-old dighi.
Abdul Matin added, "The rumour of filling up the dighi is baseless. The construction work is now going on to build two security walls on the east and south sides so that fish farming can be carried on smoothly."
However in this context, Cumilla City Corporation Mayor Md Monirul Haque Sakku told this correspondent, "A few days ago, two people came to me. They informed me that they are going to reduce the dighi's water and construct a coffee shop and a road on the east bank."
"In reply, I warned them that there is no way to fill up the dighi. It is completely illegal. I have tried to take action whenever I have received complaints of filling up ponds and reservoirs in the city. This dighi will not be allowed to be filled in any way," he added.
According to the Reservoir Protection Act-2000, no government-recognised reservoir can be filled-in under any circumstances.
The locals claimed that Cumilla has alarmingly losing its ponds and reservoirs in the past decade and half. Not only influential people but also a number of government organisations are on the list of filling up ponds and reservoirs, they said.
Shawkat Ara Koli, Deputy Director of the Department of Environment, Cumilla, himself admitted that people filling ponds and reservoirs in Comilla have become "reckless".
If the city loses Wazir Dighi, its residents will face water-logging every year in the monsoon, the locals also said.
Wazir Dighi is located near Cumilla District Police Superintendent's Bungalow and Circuit House. Many people commute to Rajganj Bazar every day through the road on the south side of the dighi.
Bangladesh Environment Movement (BAPA)'s Cumilla Unit President Dr Mosleh Uddin Ahmed said, "Filling ponds and water bodies is completely illegal. No one can fill his own ponds, dighis and reservoirs."
"The environment of the city will deteriorate further if ponds and dighis are filled one after another. The filling of Wazir Dighi should be stopped immediately, and action should be taken against the fillers," he added.
Badrul Huda Jenu, president of the Aware Citizens Committee (SNAC), said, "Cumilla used to be a city of banks and tanks. But now it has only banks. In the last decade, I have seen that the people of the administration including the Department of Environment could not be able to stop these fillings."
"Those who have political power are not told anything by the environment department. Due to such filling, if there is little rain in Cumilla city, there is terrible water-logging. If the law is not enforced, the existence of ponds, dighis and reservoirs will not be found in Cumilla city in the future," he added.
Asked about this, Shawkat Ara Koli, Deputy Director, Department of Environment, Cumilla, said, "We have stopped the water pumping machines after receiving the news."
"The owner of the dighi has been notified in the incident. Thus there is no chance of filling up the dighi. Legal action will be taken if any attempt is made to fill up Wazir Dighi," he added.
"We have taken action whenever we have received complaints about these incidents," he also said.
Shawkat Ara Koli lamented that they sometimes get the news after the filling. "No one will be spared in this case, no matter how influential he or she is," he warned.