Dhaka, Nov 1: It was a picture-postcard park in the midst of a concrete jungle. Not anymore. The lone park at Tantibazar on English Road seems to have lost much of its greenery, with a perfunctory beautification in the east, a 10 feet high dumping zone in the middle and an unofficial stand for trucks in the west. “Is it a park? I thought it to be another plot of land to aggravate traffic snarls in the capital," wondered Nahid, a first-year student of Jagannath University (JU), albeit everyday he takes a shortcut through the park to reach his university.
“It once was a pretty little spot amid the concrete walls. There were some rides for children in it," mused Ajaml Hossain, an old resident of the area.
Ajaml told The Independent that the park was surrounded by long trees. “On weekends, food-sellers used to flock here, as people visited the park with their children," he added.
Although he could not remember when the children's rides were uprooted from the park, Ajaml said the number of children visiting the place got less and less as construction of some large buildings started on the southern side.
Large trucks carrying bricks used to be parked at the spot and it had become an open-air garage for trucks and pushcarts, he mentioned. “Later, it was turned into a convenient place for dumping construction wastes," he said.
Refatullah, a shop-owner at the south side of the park, alleged that the park becomes a junk-hub at night. “We close our shops at around 9 p.m., and by then some groups, consisting of young people, gather here and the place becomes a drug den. It has become a safe haven for addicts," he added.
This correspondent found bottles of Phensidyl at the dumping ground for construction wastes.
A temporary tea-stall owner at the park, preferring anonymity, admitted that the place has gone to the junkies. “Who cares? Police are paid by drug-traders to look the other way," he rued.
When this correspondent told Ataur, a traffic sergeant on duty by the park's side, about the bottles of phensidyl, he smiled knowingly and simply said: “This happens”.
"The Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) has chosen this site as a dumping ground for construction wastes. It has only worsened the situation," said Sharif Jamil, member secretary of the Parks and Grounds Committee of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (BAPA).
The green activist said the Tantibazar park had been constructed during the British rule and then it was much larger than its present size. “During the East Pakistan period, the park had lost some of its land, but it was still a beautiful place to pass a lazy afternoon," he remarked.
During HM Ershad's regime, some children’s rides were set up at the park and it became a children's playground. About this time, it was also brought under the jurisdiction of the DCC. “Rather than looking after the spot of green, from 2008, the corporation itself started to dump construction wastes in the middle of the park,” Jamil rued.
Munshi Mohammad Abdul Hashem, executive engineer of circle-2 of the DCC, told The Independent that the civic body dumps rubbish in the centre of the park. The DCC started dumping wastes here to stop truck drivers from parking their vehicles, he said.
In 2007, the DCC assigned Heritage, a private company, with the task of beautifying the park. When contacted, Heritage officials said they had beautified the east side of the park. They also said that the DCC had stopped providing financial assistance to the company, and added that they were threatened by some local goons to stop the beautification.
They, however, said that the firm is eager to re-start beautification. “But we need financial and administrative support from the DCC. Otherwise, it will not be possible,” they added.
The chief waste management officer of the DCC, Capt. Bipan Kumar Saha, said the civic body will soon clean up the mess. “Unfortunately, if we clean the dumping ground, it’ll again become a temporary stand for trucks,” he added.
He observed that the west side of the park has already been in use as a truck stand.
“Our estate and engineering sections should work together to clean the park. This will prevent truck drivers from encroaching the place,” he said.
“We’ll soon launch a programme to give back the children’s park its old look ,” said the DCC’s chief estate officer, Golam Rahman Mia.
“Prime minister Sheikh Hasina gave directives to protect children’s playgrounds. We’ll take the initiative to protect the DCC-listed 47 parks in Dhaka city”, he added.
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