Around 4km east of the Gazipur Chowrasta, there should be a 200-year-old Shib Bari Pukur (pond) beside Joydepur Road.
But now, at first glance or from a distance, the pond is not visible.
What can be seen first is an approximately 5-6 feet high pile of municipal waste, weighing in tonnes. The putrid smell is overwhelming, and discoloured polybags are abundant, starting at the pond's littoral zone.
But behind the wall of waste, is a dying pond fully covered by aquatic plants such as water hyacinths, weeds and more.
Shib Bari Pukur used to be a 9.5 decimal pond, now encroached by a number of tin sheds and concrete establishments. Over the years, the pond has shrunk to half of its original size.
Like the Shib Bari Pukur that was dug during the time of the Bhawal Raj dynasty, several other ponds across Gazipur city are on the verge of extinction because of unplanned urbanisation and poor waste management, local green activists complained.
According to Gazipur District Administration data, there were around 400 ponds recorded as khas lands in and around the city. Almost half of the ponds, partially or completely, have been grabbed by illegal occupants.
Oral history suggests that Shib Bari Pukur was dug between the late 1700s and mid-1800s when Zamindar Indra Narayan Roy – a direct ancestor of Ramendra Narayan Roy, the famous Sannyasi Raja of Bhawal Estate – established the Indreshwar Shiva (Shib in Bangla) Temple and Crematorium.
The temple and crematorium management committee president Narayan Kumar Das told The Business Standard that one lessee of the pond, Abdur Rahman, is trying to grab the property that falls under the Bhawal Raj Court of Wards Estate.
"Abdur Rahman's son Faizur Rahman has planned a construction project there. Dumping waste is a process of land grabbing," Das said.
According to Das, when the temple committee and fellow Hindus protested Faizur's move, the lessee brought the issue to court, turning the pond into a 'disputed land.' Now an injunction order is blocking the temple committee from reclaiming the pond.
Das added, "on several occasions, we requested the city corporation authority and the local lawmaker to help us restore the pond. They assured us. But nothing has changed yet."
The poor state of the Raj Dighi (large pond) adjacent to the Gazipur Deputy Commissioner's Office (originally the Joydebpur Palace) is another example of negligence of the concerned authorities.
The Raj Dighi was dug in 1835 by zamindar Kali Narayan Roy Chowdhury, grandfather of the Sannyasi Raja Ramendra Narayan. Kali Narayan was the first of that particular zamindar family to receive the 'Raja' title from the British Emperor.
Dwellers of any city in the world would appreciate such an old large waterbody preserved in their locality. The antique value would add to its importance.
Instead of feeling proud of possessing such a heritage, Gazipur city dwellers feel ashamed of the dighi as it is always littered with municipal waste.
Kobi Gobinda Das Road beside the dighi is used as a CNG-auto rickshaw depot without any parking and public toilet facilities. Unaware auto rickshaw staff and passersby freely urinate along the slopes of this low-lying place, further intensifying the pond's water pollution level.
In a recent conversation with TBS, Abdul Matin, a teacher at Joydebpur Government Girls' High School, said, "is it not strange that several government offices, including the Session Judge Court, and a number of schools are located near the dighi and nobody comes forward to stop pollution?"
Less than 100 metres south of the dighi, there is another pond adjacent to the Gazipur Club premise. Boundary walls of the club and a series of roadside shops have cordoned the waterbody from all sides, allowing local people to freely dump restaurant waste and trash there.
A local journalist Monir Hossen said that a handsome amount of funds were allocated by the district administration to restore the pond. "But we have not seen any restoration activity," he said.
Next to the Uttar Chhayabithi Road, around 200m north of the dighi, there is the Tankir Par Pukur. People from neighbouring restaurants and residences have transformed the pond into a landfill. The pond water became lifeless a long time ago and at present, it has lost the capacity to carry runoff.
Lawyer Moniruzzaman who runs a legal consultation chamber in front of the pond complained of the strong stench that rises up from the pond and intrudes on his office at all hours of the day.
"Several requests to the local ward councillor to clean the pond went in vain. Now, I am adapting to the air pollution," Moniruzzaman said.
The TBS team also found the century-old Gazipur Central Mosque pond (also known as Munshirpar Pukur) in a miserable state. The pond's littoral zone, from all sides, has been occupied by illegal grabbers; and it has been transformed into a waste dumping point.
Recently, local green activists fenced up the pond with a nylon net to restrict littering.
People using the Joydebpur Road – the main arterial road of Gazipur city – have complained they had to deal with waterlogging in the last monsoon as the ponds, like rainwater retention points, have lost runoff carrying capacity.
Kazi Badrut Alam, one of the organisers of Bangladesh Nodi Poribrajak Dal (a local green campaigning group) said that concerned authorities have gravely neglected the protection of the historic ponds.
"Not only as a heritage, but the ponds are also crucial to the city environment," Alam said, demanding that the district administration takes necessary steps to restore the water bodies.
Gazipur City Corporation's chief waste management officer Shariful Islam told TBS that the corporation, with only 300 cleaners, has been struggling to manage around 4,000 tonnes of municipal waste generated daily in the city.
"There is no STS [secondary transfer station] and permanent landfill in Gazipur city. The ponds are mostly khas land. If the district administration cooperates, restoration and management of the water bodies will not be a big deal," Shariful said.
Recently, Gazipur district's deputy commissioner Anisur Rahman expressed hope that the newly-formed Gazipur Development Authority (GDA) would soon design a master plan covering the conservation of the city's water bodies.
TBS contacted the GDA chairman Motaher Hossain and learnt that the regulatory organisation is also facing a manpower shortage.
Currently, GDA is operated only by the chairman (an additional secretary of the public works ministry), a secretary and an accountant.
"GDA has proposed an organogram of 1,300 manpower. Soon after we get equipped with the staff, we will start drafting the city development plan. At that time, if the district administration requests GDA to restore the water bodies, we will do it, for sure," Motaher said.