Close to nature, on the city outskirts | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 01, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:47 AM, January 01, 2016

Nature Quest

Close to nature, on the city outskirts

On this chilly Friday morning, you may enjoy a stroll through warm sand dunes without going far from the city centre. This little known white expanse of flat sand is on the other side of the Buriganga and incredibly close to city dwellers. From Dhaka Zero Point you may cycle to this lustrous area in less than 30 minutes on holidays. You take the Bangladesh-China Friendship Bridge to cross the river and turn left to follow a narrow asphalt road, which leads you to a place called Sowarighat some two to three kilometres away. Stretches of fallow land are all around Sowarighat. A branch of Buriganga once flowed through it and people took boats to cross that rivulet. Now the rivulet is dead and you cross it walking over an earth dam.

By dredging the river a housing scheme named River View piled sand over the vast floodplains all around Sowarighat. For reasons unknown to us, the planned housing activities have not gained speed yet and the sand dunes are simply left there glittering under the sun for nature lovers. Very naturally, grass and other wetland plants have grown on the sand, giving it a near-natural ambience. Most beautiful are the tall grasses with long stalks of white flowers called Kaash in Bangla. The dead rivulet, clogged with water weeds and hyacinth, acts as a natural pool within the dunes.

Such a sanctuary of semi wild place is not expected to be inert, uninhabited and lifeless for very long. Little wonder that it is already an abode of many butterflies, lizards, skinks, frogs and birds. Butterflies and birds are more visible and colourful than the other colonizers there. Rows of Kaash appeal greatly to the munias and prinas. Pipits and wagtails find the stubby grass field greatly attractive. Even the bare sand dunes attract birds such as kites, larks and lapwings. Large kites sit with outstretched wings to soak up the warmth from the glowing sand. Larks and lapwings look for insects moving on the dunes. Aerial hunters like shikra and kestrel target the insects, reptiles and small birds. Before pouncing on its target, the shikra hides under high branches of trees on the edge of the sand flat. The beautifully patterned kestrel flies overhead before descending on its victims. Kingfishers, on the other hand, sit motionlessly on a tree branch.

You have to leave your vehicle at Sowarighat and take a walk to enter the world of sand. If you start your walk slowly and head west from Sowarighat, you will be rewarded with memorable encounters with creatures big and small. A densely populated village called Arakul is near the flat sand. If you continue your walk westward for several hours, you will reach a bigger village named Mirzapur. You may as well start your return journey through Arakul or Mirzapur if you have not left your vehicle at Sowarighat.

Anyone from the city with little opportunities to see birds and other creatures will surely find a short tour of this flat sand very enjoyable. The children who get to see no wild creatures will benefit the most.

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