- Located in Khulshi of Chattogram city, Foy's Lake is the biggest artificial urban lake, or the lone hilly-urban lake of the country
- The lake area is a hub of diverse indigenous flora, many of which are not easy to find
- Hundreds of kites and several other bird species have made the lake area their home
- Vultures are known to frequent the lake area in winter
- There are approximately 15 to 20 species of mammals living in the lake greenery
Many of us are no strangers to the zoo or amusement park at Foy's Lake, Chattogram. So when you think of Foy's Lake, the most coveted tourist spot in the port city, what image comes first to mind?
Is it the boat ride through the tranquil lake water? Or is it the rare white cub peeking from the tiger enclosure? Perhaps, the virtual wave pool of the sea world entices you more.
Even if your answer is the lake greeneries, I doubt anyone specifically thought of the biodiversity of this man-made urban reservoir.
There are two prime reasons. First, most of the green spaces of the area are not accessible to tourists. Second, there is not much literature or study on the biodiversity of this natural habitat.
Hence, knowing little about it, visitors wander around the place, ignoring the mystic biodiversity.
With an area of almost 1.5 sq km in Khulshi of Chattogram city, this is probably the biggest urban lake in Bangladesh.
It can also be described as the biggest artificial urban lake or probably the lone hilly-urban lake of the country.
Hopefully, after reading this feature you will realise that this is also the most biodiverse urban lake of Bangladesh. You will have a different perspective about the lake.
A century old formation
The history of the lake dates back to 1924 when the then Assam-Bengal Railway Company decided to excavate it to provide water to the residents of Chattogram.
It was created by constructing an embankment from one hill to another, across a narrow valley. The lake is now managed by the Concord Group, which developed it as an amusement park under a 50-year lease agreement.
Foy's Lake enjoys some large and expansive green spaces. Some parts of it are open to visitors and some remain off limits.
However, we were privileged enough to have a thrilling boat ride all around the lake with the permission of the authority. To discover the unknowns of the known place, we sailed for almost five hours.
Greeted by a monitor
A surprise came after 10 minutes when our boatman discovered a medium-sized Bengal monitor (Guishap in Bangla) hidden alongside a bush.
However, unluckily, when we took a turn to take a close-up photograph, it disappeared into the bushes in the blink of an eye.
Soon, through a more crystal stream, we made our way towards a bird's paradise on the northern side of the reservoir.
A bird haven
Our camera caught an array of beautiful birds including kingfisher, woodpecker, hill myna, hornbill, starling, sparrow, white-breasted water hen, parrot, and many other unknown species.
While traveling all around, we captured many cormorants in the lake water, diving here and there.
Our boatmen Salim Patwary was a local chap. He informed us that at least 12 to 15 different species of birds are commonly seen in the lake area. The actual number will certainly be higher.
The west side in the lake-resort area can be described as a kingdom of kites. If anyone can make it here, they will see kites in flocks.
During our ride, we saw hundreds of kites gliding above the sky. If you are lucky enough, you may also see vultures. Winter is the best time to spot one.
A hub of different plants
Nuzzled in the folds of hills named Arunima, Joltungi, Himjhuri Udayan, Ostachol, Gogondwip, and many more, Foy's lake contains myriad forms of wildlife and nature.
With its varieties of bird species, unique trees, rare herbs; medicinal plants and floaters are also seen amid the lush green and placid waters.
Cotton-tree, chapalish, chatian, different types of shirish, jarul, dharmara, bhadi, raintree, teak, gamar, golden shower, krishnachura, radhachura, amla, bahera, cane, coconut, mango, jackfruit, plum, bailam, palm, dalia, cosmos, jaba are few of them.
I got an expert opinion about the range of species of trees from Mohammed Kamal Hossain, professor of the Institute of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, Chattogram University.
In his opinion, "More than a 100 species of trees exist in the belt of the Foy's Lake hill range. Besides, if the shrubs, aquatic plants, weeds, and trailers are taken into account, then the range would be more than 350."
He also stressed, "The oxygen supply of Chattogram city benefits significantly from this urban green space. To keep the greenery more bio-friendly, the authority should take more care of the trees and remove the parasitic trailers, to feed them with more sunlight."
Along the journey, we discovered various spectacular ferns, grasses, musk grasses, water weeds, watermilfoil, and bushy pondweed under the crystal water.
On the top, we found colorful water lilies, sacred lotus, mosses, and many other floating aquatic plants.
These create an ideal ecosystem for diverse aquatic life forms. While boating along the lake, patient observation will provide you with some surprising sight of freshwater fishes.
According to Bishwajit Ghosh, deputy marketing manager of the tourism hub, 15 to 20 species of fishes can be found in the lake water, which includes snakehead murrel, spotted snakehead, common carp, carp, climbing perches, various catfish shrimps, etc.
He asserted, "To keep the lake pollution-free for the fishes and biodiversity, our team cleans the waste and rubbish from the lake on a regular basis. We put our earnest effort to keep it picturesque and environment-friendly, so that everyone who wanders alongside the woods can go back with sagas and snaps of vibrant flora and fauna."
Monkeys and more
We got the proof of his claim as our viewfinders kept encountering some breathtaking scenes. That memorable journey came to a completion with a surprise, as we were fortunate enough to see a group of monkeys on our way back.
We experienced a thrill--which we usually feel while watching any wildlife documentary--when we closely observed the wild animals drinking water from the lake.
The excitement increased as we came close to the central boat station of the park and some squirrels greeted us.
After the ride, we learned more about the wildlife from Mohammed Belal, a gardener of the lake area.
He claimed, "There are approximately 15 to 20 species of animals including monkey, squirrel, barking deer, turtle, civet, jackal, porcupine, rabbit, small wild cats and various types of snakes."
A respite for a buzzing city
Mostafa Yousuf, an environmental journalist, emphasised on the importance of such a natural habitat in this rapidly urbanising city.
He told The Business Standard, "Under the pressing threat of climate change, we have to understand how cities benefit from such local biodiversity. However, unplanned urbanisation and land grabbing in this area have been posing a severe threat to it. It is high time the authority takes practical steps to preserve and restore remnant habitats and incorporate biodiversity issues in their development agendas."