The Chattogram City Corporation constructed two swimming pools and a gymnasium seven years ago at a cost of Tk4 crore. But no one has ever swum in the pools in Chattogram's Jatisangha Park in Panchlaish residential area, thanks to a flawed design and a lack of supporting arrangements.
The city corporation officials themselves agree that the swimming pool construction, spanning around an acre of land, has been unplanned. Now they approve the Public Works Department's plan to demolish the structures to build a garden there at a cost of Tk12 crore.
Terming it "a sheer waste" of public money, civil society members have demanded action against those involved in the construction of the pools.
"Neither the pools nor the gym are usable now. A committee comprising representatives of the city corporation, district administration and public works has decided to demolish them and build a modern park there," Rahul Guha, executive engineer of Public Works Department Chattogram (Div-1), told The Business Standard.
Abdullah Al Omar, city planner of the city corporation who ison the committee, said the pools have design flaws and those involved in the construction did not take approval from the corporation's planning wing.
"The pools do not have any bathing arrangements, while bathing is mandatory to get into a swimming pool and after swimming. They do not have a water purification system and are way deeper than is usual," he told The Business Standard.
Residents of Panchlaish residential area, the main beneficiaries of the pools, also have been opposing the pools. Seeking a legal remedy, they subsequently went to court.
"We have been opposing the unnecessary pools and gym from the very beginning. We needed the open space, as the construction spoiled the park," Abu Saeed Salim, general secretary of the Panchlaish Residential Area Welfare Association, told The Business Standard.
The Panchlaish residential area, including the park, was established on 69 acres of land in 1954 by Chattogram Public Works Department. In 1988, the 2.27-acre park was handed over to the city corporation for renovation and maintenance. In 2002, it was named as Jatisangha Park by the then corporation mayor ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury.
In 2012, Chattogram mayor M ManjurAlam initiated the pool and gym construction, which was completed in 2015. Each of the pools is 120 feet long and 50 feet wide, while the gym is on 7,000 square feet of land.
In 2016, the then mayor AJM Nasir Uddin took an initiative to lease out the park to a private firm after raising allegations that the pools had been constructed without any plan. But the initiative met with widespread protests by former housing and public works minister Mosharraf Hossain and Panchlaish locals.
In 2017, disputes between the city corporation and Chattogram Public Works Department surfaced over the park's ownership.
In 2020, the city corporation finally had the park project approved by the Chattogram Public Works Department.
Chattogram city Mayor Rezaul Karim Chowdhury declined to comment on whether any action would be taken against those involved in the planning, design and construction of the pools.
"We have not taken such a decision yet. Let the park project be implemented first," he told The Business Standard.
Akhtar Kabir Chowdhury, secretary of Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) Chattogram chapter, said action should be taken so that public representatives and officials become careful about spending in the future.
"They must give back Tk4 crore, or face legal action," he commented.