Tens of millions have been spent to build swimming pools, a gym at Chattogram Park. Now hundreds of millions more will splurge to purge them

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The Public Works Department is now aiming to splurge 120 million taka on the United Nations Park in the residential area of ​​Panchlaish by stripping it of the swimming pools and gymnasium, in a blatant example of poor planning and blatant waste of energy. taxpayers’ hard-earned money. .

In December 2012, former mayor M Manzur Alam began construction work on an acre of land inside the park. The work was completed in June 2015.

Now the Panchlaish Residential Area Welfare Society has endorsed the PWD project, saying the pools are unnecessary.

Abu Saeed Selim, the society’s general secretary, told bdnews24.com: “During Mayor Manzur Alam’s tenure, the society offered to renovate the park and build a small swimming pool for children at its own expense.

“A few days later, the municipality put out a tender and built the pools on their own. We didn’t want such large and unusable pools here. We wanted an open park so that people could walk around in peace and that the children can play.”

The 69-acre Panchlaish residential area falls under the PWD. Panchlaish Park covers an area of ​​2.17 acres.

In 1988, when Mahmudul Islam Chowdhury was mayor, the PWD handed over responsibility for the park to Chattogram City Corporation for its renovation and management. In 2002, Mayor ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury named it Jatisangha Park or United Nations Park.

Over the past decade, local political leaders have repeatedly engaged in disputes over the park. The issue remained unresolved and citizens were denied the ability to use the park.

When AJM Nasir Uddin became mayor, an initiative was taken in 2016 to lease the park to a private company for 25 years.

Later, when Elite Park Limited proposed to build a community centre, guest house and commercial facility there, Mosharraf Hossain, former Minister of State for Housing and Public Works, shot it down. The dispute between Mosharraf and Nasir became public.

The High Court ordered a halt to the lease process after the Social Welfare Committee challenged the construction of a commercial facility inside the park.

Later in 2017, the municipality objected to a new development proposal for 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 municipality.

After Nasir completed his term, Khorshed Alam Sujan became the city’s corporate administrator as the election was pushed back by the pandemic.

After discussing the issue with former minister Mosharraf Hossain, Khorshed Alam on behalf of the municipality gave a written no objection to the project.

Abu Saeed, head of the welfare society, said: “We had filed a petition because the municipal society wanted to build and rent commercial establishments. Now we have dropped the case because they have no objections to the project. of development. “

Rahul Guha, executive engineer of the public works department, told bdnews24.com that they want to develop the park on the model of Jamboree park.

“There will be a fountain in the middle. There will be walkways, green spaces, landscapes and a children’s play area all around.”

The estimated cost of the new project is 120 million taka, Rahul said.

The project evaluation committee made some suggestions and changes will be made accordingly, he added.

Rahul said the wellness company offered to leave out the swimming pools and gymnasium from the new project.

“These structures are spread over 0.9 acres of land inside the park, which reduces the open space. There is also an issue with the depth of the two pools. Residents only want one park.”

“Furthermore, managing a swimming pool is a difficult task. Who will manage it? Our initial proposal was therefore not to keep them.

One of the two 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 questions, the project appraisal committee formed a five-member committee consisting of representatives from the municipality, district administration, police and public works department to design a proposal.

The committee visited the park last week.

Committee members agreed to fill in the pools and demolish the gymnasium, a committee member said.

Executive Engineer Rahul Guha said the committee’s recommendations will be sent to the ministry.

However, the demolition of the swimming pool and gymnasium means that the entire amount of Tk 40 million previously spent on their construction will go to water.

Abu Saeed said, “If our advice had been followed, the money would not have been wasted on the previous project. Nobody listened then.”

Lawyer Akhtar Kabir Chowdhury, Secretary General of Chattogram Unit of Sushasoner Jonno Nagorik (Citizens for Good Governance or Sujan), said, “The 40 million Tk that was wasted was public money.”

“The project must have been designed by architects or engineers. Now that it’s said to be unusable, how did this design come about? Or did the contractor and the people involved build the two swimming pools and the gymnasium without following the design? »

He said: “No one could use them for a single day after spending so much money. The state must therefore allocate the money wisely. Those involved should be held accountable. »

The PWD hopes to start work after five months if the new project is approved.

City Corporation planner Abdullah Al Omar said, “We have sent representatives to the technical committee as instructed by the project appraisal committee. The committee agreed to a resolution. We will remove swimming pools or other establishments upon receipt of the official letter.

Asked about the waste of money, the municipality official said: “Resources are wasted when things are done without proper planning.”

[Writing in English by Taif Kamal and Arshi Fatiha Quazi]

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