Chattogram Lohagara upazila businessman Shafik Sikder bought a plot at Karnaphuli Residential Area of the Chattogram Development Authority (CDA) in 1994. He had a "home, sweet home" dream for the 3-katha (approximately 0.05 acre) plot he purchased at Tk2.5 lakh, and wanted to settle there.
But, the businessman died two years ago, his dream left unfulfilled.
Not a single plot owner in the residential area could build a house in 26 years since allotment because the CDA has failed to provide the minimum utility facilities at its first residential project.
The site does not even have a water supply.
According to the Plot Owners Association, about one-third of the 520 plot owners have already died. Another one-third have been forced to sell their plots at rock bottom prices. And the remaining owners are also sceptical they will be able to build their homes in their lifetime.
Yasin Chowdhury got a plot in the project area on a quota. To build a home in a planned residential area, he happily allowed the residential project to acquire his ancestral home.
He has been living in a rented house in the port city for more than two decades – his dream has not come true.
Yasin said the CDA had promised it will provide all utility services. "So, I allowed them to acquire my ancestral home, which fell within the project area. But the CDA could not even install water supply there in the last 26 years," he added.
"I have now come to the end of my life. Probably I will not be able to see my house," the elderly person, aged more than 70, told The Business Standard.
According to the CDA, the residential project was taken up in the 1992-93 financial year on the Karnaphuli River bank to ease Chattogram's housing crisis and traffic congestion.
At the time, the project cost was estimated at Tk12.60 crore. In early 1994, the CDA invited applications for plot allotments. A total of 520 plots of three and four kathas were allotted that year at a price of Tk80,000 per katha.
Kazi Hasan Bin Shams, the chief engineer of the CDA, said the housing project had failed to develop mainly because of the water supply shortage. He claimed the CDA made several attempts to get water supply from Chattogram Wasa, but to no avail.
Attempts were also made to lift groundwater, but no drinkable water was found even 1,000 feet beneath the surface in the project area, commented the engineer.
"Now we are trying to supply water from Wasa's Bhandar-Juri Water Supply Project, which is scheduled to be completed by 2021," he added.
The Business Standard talked to eight plot owners in the project area. They said one of the plot allocation conditions stipulates that plot recipients will take water, electricity, gas and telephone connections from the main lines.
The CDA has installed power and gas lines but has not been able to provide potable water. They complained that the CDA did not make arrangements for groundwater extraction as it is too much iron-contaminated and saline.
They said Wasa later submitted a survey report to the housing and public works ministry regarding the provision of potable water for the project by lifting it from 1000 feet beneath the surface. But the report subsequently did not see the light of day.
When contacted, CDA Chairman Zahirul Alam Dubash said the issue is quite old. The Plot Owners Association contacted him after he had assumed office.
"I have talked to Wasa and instructed the residential project director to make arrangements for water supply from Wasa's Bhandar-Juri Water Supply Project. When the Wasa project is completed in 2021, hopefully, the problem will be resolved."
Asked if the CDA has a responsibility to provide utility services, including electricity, water and gas connections, to the residential project, the CDA chairman said, "Yes, it is our responsibility to ensure those facilities. The CDA has already provided power lines to the project, and approval has been taken for gas."