Laldighi, a century-old historic pond, is being filled-in by the Jashore municipality in defiance of the Reservoir Protection Act.
Located in the heart of the city, the historic dighi (a large pond) is losing its existence because of the construction of a 10-storied shopping complex beside it.
Two-thirds of the water of the government recognised pond has already been pumped-out.
The Reservoir Protection Act-2000 says no government-recognised reservoir can be filled-in under any circumstances.
But at least 10 ponds in Jashore have been filled-in to build houses and commercial complexes over the past few years, said local people.
Mahmud Hasan, member of the Laldighi Bachao Andolon (Laldighi Protection Movement) and general secretary of Shilpakala Academy of the district, said draining and filling-in ponds have an adverse effect on the environment, but the local administration has not considered that.
On a visit to the Laldighi area, this correspondent found a signboard with a picture of the mall and the name 'Pouro Heritage Market' on it.
The market is under construction on the side of the pond.
Jashore Municipality Mayor Jahirul Islam Chaklader has laid the foundation stone of the market.
A large volume of water has been pumped out of the dighi, and at least 20 feet of it has been filed-in with sand.
A businessman, who lives near the construction site, said, "The piling for the building has been going on for over a month, and the filling-in of the pond has been going on for over a week."
Mahmud Hasan, member of the Laldighi Bachao Andolon, also said, "The municipality is filling up the historical Laldighi in front of us, but we cannot do anything about it. One-fourth of the dighi has already been filled-in."
Laldighi is listed as an historical site in the district's gazetteer as well.
Local people said that about 150 years ago, the then municipality dug the historical pond on an acre and 12 decimals of land beside Garikhana road in Jashore to supply water to the residents of the area.
At present, hundreds of people use the pond daily for many purposes including bathing and washing clothes.
A few years ago, the municipality decided to build a market by filling up the pond. This led residents to protest and sign a petition to stop the municipality from filling up the pond.
The ongoing construction is also causing air pollution.
Solzar Rahman, an associate professor of Geography and Environmental Science at Jashore's MM College, said, "Human activities and the construction of factories are polluting the air. The city needs open reservoirs and open spaces to purify the air."
"Keeping Laldighi open and clean is crucial for the environment."
Meanwhile, the mayor of Jashore Municipality Jahirul Islam Chaklader told The Business Standard, "The market is being built on 35 decimals of land on the side of Laldighi pond. Part of the pond has already been filled with sand for the construction."
"The sand will be removed from the pond after the market is built. Laldighi will not be filled-in."
Nazmul Huda, deputy director of the department of the environment in Jashore, said, "According to the Reservoir Protection Act 2000, no government-recognised reservoir can be filled-in under any circumstances. But many people are defying the Act."
"The deputy commissioner should enforce the Act. Measures will be taken against filling up Laldighi after talking to the deputy commissioner."
Nur-E Alam, acting deputy commissioner of Jashore, said the municipality cannot fill-in the historical pond. Necessary measures will be taken against it.