Kaptai Lake is the largest manmade lake in Bangladesh. It is located in the Kaptai Upazila under Rangamati District of Chittagong Division. The lake was created as a result of building the Kaptai Dam on the Karnaphuli River, as part of the Karnaphuli Hydro-electric project. The Kaptai Lake's average depth is 100 feet and maximum depth is 490 feet.
Construction of the reservoir for the hydro-electric plant began in 1956 by the Government of East Pakistan. As a result, 54,000 acres of farmland in the Rangamati District went under water and created the lake. The hydro-electric project was funded by the United States. The project was finished in 1962. International Engineering Company and Utah International Inc. received the contract for construction of the dam.
The dam is 670.8 meters long, and 54.7 meters high. The dam has a 745 feet (227 m) long spillway containing 16 gatesThe land that went under water as a result of the dam construction was 40% of the total arable land in the area. Along with that, 29 square miles (75 km2) of the Government-owned forest, and 234 square miles (610 km2) of other forest land went under water. About 18,000 families with a total of almost 100 thousand people were also displaced. The palace of the king of the Chakmas was also flooded and is now under water.
Apart from generation of hydroelectricity, the lake has become an important resource for some other considerations. It has created a diversified and long waterway. Many places that used to take a day or even more to reach have now become an hour's trip by speedboat or launch. It has become much easier to exploit forest resources that had earlier been inaccessible. The whole lake is now a great tourist attraction.
The most popular trip is Shuvalong Falls (90 minutes one way). This modest waterfall is little more than a trickle for most of the year, but the boat trip out to it is fabulous; first crossing the vast expanse of the main lake, then entering an area of islands covered with banana plants, and finally a dramatic pass through a steep-sided gorge.The Hanging Bridge, a low suspension bridge, not far from the Parjatan Holiday Complex, is another popular boat-trip destination.
The small Chakma islands at the other end of Rangamati are another popular boat stop, although, like the Hanging Bridge, they can also be reached by land.Another popular trip with local tourists is the two-hour ride to Kaptai Town, but the town itself is a bit of a dump.
There are small boat ghats all around the lake, but the main two are Reserve-Bazar Ghat and Tobolchuri Ghat. Passenger ferries shuttle locals from Reserve-Bazar to places such as Kaptai Town. They're sometimes reluctant to take foreigners, but you can get to Shuvalong Falls for Tk 50 if they let you on. Otherwise, you'll have to hire your own boat.
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