LED 2016 Group C Landscape Democracy Challenge 2

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Ashkar Dighi (A big pond) Chittagong.

Place name Ashkar Dighi(A big pond).
Location Chittagong
Country Bangladesh
Author(s) Natasha Tourin

Rationale: Why have you chosen this case for the landscape and democracy seminar?

  • Ashkar Dighi is a manmade water body which is considered as a big pond (dighi) located in Chittagong city. The reason of this specific case selection as a landscape democracy project is its historical and social value and in addition to have an ecological value towards city. And its present damaged conditions need deliberate attention. But unfortunately this case does not get proper attention from authority as well as from city dwellers as it can hardly see from road due to the illegal structure around it. This Dighi facing water encroachment, land filling and pollution which ultimately tends to a threat to society and ecosystem. The four banks of this Dighi snatched by slums, furniture shops, religious structures and other structures. Some furniture shop in the north side of the dighi along with the main road accidentally burnt into fire in 2013. Due to this accident the north bank of dighi got openness and managed to get an attention of the concerned citizen and show its huge possibility to become a public spaces. In that time some concern citizen along with professionals (Architect and urban planner) raised their voice and tried to make this space as a public space. Nevertheless, this shops owned by influential locals and they managed to rebuild the shops again and the authority plays a silent role. As the time gradually rolls out, the impact of this issue in human mind unfortunately fades out.

Representation of your observations

  • Ashkar Dighi named by Nawab Abdullah Beg alias Ashkar Khan Bajme Sani who was the second Mughal commandant of Chittagong. Within 1669-1671 time period, he ordered to dig this pond for water supply to his solders. It was 8.49 acres in 1898 and in recent days it has shrunk to five acres. By the course of time, this Dighi lost its old glory and grabbed illegally by influential locals. Now a days it too polluted for any use. Illegal settlements, shops and other structures took the position on the four banks. The garbage and filth generated in those slums and houses are the major reason for pollution of Ashkar Dighi.


What are the major challenges for changing the situation?

  • In my point of view, the first and foremost challenges for changing the situation should be create public awareness and to make it visible for the people. The Dighi is close to the main road at north side and connection from that part is more convenient. At road side there are some furniture shops which are owned by influential locals.Those locals grabbed and owned the front land and that is why they are doing whatever they want.Also the water body is owned by Shawkat Hossain who is very influential person in Chittagong city.But there is a rule that any water body exceeding 0.5 acre should be preserved.In this case authority can take actions but they does not show any concern as that locals have powerful grip over them. It would be a great challenge for authority and also concern professionals who can raise voice and make public to know the impact of this Dighi as well as open public space and convince that locals to move and free the space for people. Also secondly, steps should take to relocate slum people in a suitable place to make the dighi free from pollution and to have free access.

What could be a starting point for democractically-based change?

  • Firstly to start democratically based initiatives in the context of my country deliberately needed to create public awareness. People of Bangladesh are always used to with situation. A situation which was continued in past will be going on in future unless if anyone take the initiatives. Public participants in any decision making (except elections) is still not famous. Now a days there are some hope that some professionals are trying to involve people .So, first of all, it will be our duty as a professional to take part in creating awareness among the people and then try to involve people in decision. And also design the participation program in such a way that nonprofessional person can easily understand the process and can contribute their inputs.


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