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Pond stir over revamp delay

The historic Raja Talab in Dhanbad’s Jharia is once again at the centre of an agitation, this time the delay in starting renovation work prompting the local councillor and the residents to hit the streets.

Anup Sao, councillor of ward No. 37 who had been crusading for beautification of the 8.26-acre landmark that has been lost to water hyacinth and filth staged a dharna on Thursday, demanding resumption of dewatering and desiltation work that had stopped after digging of channels to drain out water. Sao also handed over a memorandum to Dhanbad deputy commissioner Prashant Kumar through Jharia circle officer.

The demonstration is part of a phase-wise agitation under which an effigy will be burnt on July 17 followed by a candle-light march on July 24 and a dharna at the Dhanbad district headquarters on July 31.

“We were compelled to again resort to agitation as the administration has failed to initiate any step to revive the pond despite repeated assurances. If the stalemate continues, we will intensify our protest,” warned Sao, who staged a fast-unto-death to demand the pond’s renovation last November, compelling urban development minister Suresh Paswan to rush to Jharia on December 26 and promise funds.

On December 30, 2013, the district administration prepared a plan under which the beautification project was to be carried out in two phases. It was decided that first, the water body would be cleaned by Municipal Corporation (DMC) and then beautified by the state urban development department. The first phase includes dewatering and desilting for which Rs 40 lakh was sanctioned.

Hopes were raised this February when DMC started dewatering the pond to pave the way for desilting process even though a cleaning agency was to be finalised. Civic body workers dug out channels on the pond’s embankment towards the northeastern side to drain out water. But the absence of a tender for selecting the cleaning agency acted as a hurdle and complete dewatering could not be carried out.

Deputy mayor of Dhanbad Niraj Singh said: “A tender for carrying out dewatering and desilting was issued recently. The work is likely to begin next month after the cleaning agency is fixed.”

Established by the erstwhile king of Jharia estate Durga Prasad Singh in early 1920s, the pond was once the centre of all religious functions.