The Sutrapur fire station is to be constructed inside one of the most distinguished colonial mansions still standing in Dhaka city, which is also a heritage site.
The fire station on Reboti Mohan Das Lane is to be built within the compound of the 19th century mansion, earmarked for preservation by the government and by the law.
The mansion belonged to merchant and banker Reboti Mohan Das, after whom the street was named.
Scaffolding for building a garage to house fire engines has already been erected. If completed, the garage would completely obstruct the mansion from public view, making the construction illegal as per the Antiquities Act.
Structures are also being built at the back of the mansion, inside the 250-metre buffer zone all heritage sites have.
Director General of Fire Service and Civil Defence Brig Gen Ali Ahmed Khan, however, claimed that the garage at the front was a temporary structure. "We hope to better maintain the heritage site if we use it as a station," he said.
The mansion is a vested property and is being used as quarters for 67 families of fire service employees, said staff officer Shariful Islam of Munshiganj fire station, who also lives in the mansion.
Yesterday, heritage conservationist group Urban Study Group formed a human chain in front of the mansion protesting against the unlawful construction.
"It is very important for Sutrapur to have a fire station of its own but why build it spoiling a heritage site," stated Taimur Islam, chief executive officer of the organisation.
Sourav Saha, a local who joined the human chain, told The Daily Star, "We want a fire station but this mansion is important to us as it gives our street character."