Tens of millions were spent to build pools, gym at Chattogram park. Now hundred million more will be splurged to purge them
Update Time :
Sunday, March 13, 2022
The authorities spent Tk 40 million on the construction of swimming pools and a gymnasium at a park in the heart of Chattogram city a decade ago. The project ran into trouble when they tried to lease out the park to private management. The matter was dragged to court and the amusement park was subsequently abandoned.
Public Works Department now aims to splurge Tk 120 million on the United Nations Park in the Panchlaish Residential Area by stripping it of the pools and the gymnasium, in a glaring example of poor planning and an egregious waste of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
In December 2012, former mayor M Manzur Alam started the construction work on one acre of land inside the park. The work was completed in June 2015.
Now, the Panchlaish Residential Area Welfare Society has approved the PWD project, saying that the pools are useless.
Abu Saeed Selim, general secretary of the society, told bdnews24.com: “During the tenure of mayor Manzur Alam, the society proposed to renovate the park and build a small swimming pool for children at its own expense.”
“A few days later, the city corporation invited a tender and built the swimming pools by itself. We didn’t want such large and unusable swimming pools here. We wanted an open park so that people could walk in peace and children could play.”
The Panchlaish Residential Area of 69 acres is under the PWD. The Panchlaish Park covers an area of 2.17 acres.
In 1988, when Mahmudul Islam Chowdhury was the mayor, the PWD handed over the responsibility of the park to Chattogram City Corporation for its renovation and management. In 2002, mayor ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury named it Jatisangha Park or the United Nations Park.
Over the past decade, local political leaders repeatedly got engaged in disputes over the park. The issue was not settled and the citizens were denied the opportunity to use the park.
When AJM Nasir Uddin became the mayor, an initiative was taken in 2016 to lease out the park to a private company for 25 years.
Later, when Elite Park Limited proposed to build a community centre, a guest house and a commercial facility there, Mosharraf Hossain, former state minister of housing and public works, shot it down. The dispute between Mosharraf and Nasir became public.
The High Court ordered the suspension of the lease process after the welfare committee challenged the construction of a commercial facility inside the park.
Later in 2017, the city corporation objected to a new proposal for the development of the park by the Ministry of Housing and Public Works.
After two years, Mosharraf and Nasir agreed that the Ministry of Public Works would hand over the park to the city corporation.
After Nasir ran his term, Khorshed Alam Sujan became the administrator of the city corporation as the election was pushed back by the pandemic.
After discussing the matter with former minister Mosharraf Hossain, Khorshed Alam, on behalf of the city corporation, gave a written no-objection to the project.
Abu Saeed, leader of the welfare society, said, “We’d filed a writ petition as the city corporation wanted to construct and lease commercial establishments. Now we’ve dropped the case as they’ve no objection to the development project.”
Rahul Guha, executive engineer of the Public Works Department, told bdnews24.com that they want to develop the park on the lines of Jamboree Park.
“There’ll be a fountain in the middle. There will be walkways, green areas, landscapes and children’s play zone all around.”
The estimated cost of the new project is Tk 120 million, said Rahul.
The project evaluation committee has made some suggestions and changes will be carried out accordingly, he added.
Rahul said the welfare society has proposed leaving out swimming pools and gymnasium from the new project.
“These structures are spread over 0.9 acres of land inside the park, shrinking the open space. There is also a problem with the depth of the two swimming pools. The residents want a park only.”
“Moreover, managing swimming pool is a difficult task. Who’ll manage it? So our initial proposal was not to keep them.”
One of the two swimming pools, 120 feet long and 50 feet wide, is 8 feet deep and the other is 8.5 feet deep.
The total area of the gymnasium is 7,000 square feet.
Considering these issues, the project evaluation committee formed a five-strong committee comprising representatives of the city corporation, district administration, police and Public Works Department to design a proposal.
The committee visited the park last week.
Members of the committee agreed to fill up the swimming pools and demolish the gymnasium, said a committee member.
Executive Engineer Rahul Guha said the recommendations of the committee will be sent to the ministry.
However, the demolition of the swimming pool and gymnasium means that the entire amount of Tk 40 million spent earlier on their construction will go down the drain.
Abu Saeed said, “If our advice had been followed, the money would not have been wasted on the previous project. No one listened then.”
Advocate Akhtar Kabir Chowdhury, general secretary of Chattogram unit of Sushasoner Jonno Nagorik (Citizens for Good Governance or Sujan), said: “The Tk 40 million that had been wasted were public money.”
“The project must have been designed by architects or engineers. Now that it is said to be unusable, how did that design happen? Or did the contractor and those involved built the two swimming pools and gymnasium without following the design?”
He said, “No one could use these for a single day after spending so much money. So the state should allocate money wisely. Those involved should be held accountable.”
The PWD is hopeful of starting the work after five months if the new project is approved.
City Corporation’s urban planner Abdullah Al Omar said, “We’ve sent representatives to the technical committee as per the instructions of the project evaluation committee. The committee agreed a resolution. We’ll remove the swimming pools or other establishments on receiving the formal letter.”
When asked about the wasted money, the city corporation official said, “Resources are wasted when things are done without proper planning.”
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