Demolition of the century-old laboratory building in the capital's Khamarbari is going on despite an outcry from preservationists.
Upon instructions from the Public Works Department (PWD), a construction firm last week began knocking down the two-storey building of great historical value.
Around three years ago, the PWD declared risky the colonial-era structure that used to house the offices of the Cotton Development Board, the custodian of the building, and also the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE). The board shifted its office from there one and a half years ago and the DAE about four years back.
Preservationists and architectural experts have expressed frustration over the move and demanded an immediate stop to the demolition of the building built in 1909.
They say the government should put the building on the list of heritage sites as it meets the required criteria for inclusion in the list.
"The entire area should have been preserved because it is linked with an important chapter of the country's history," said Taimur Islam, chief executive of the Urban Study Group that works to protect the architectural heritage of Dhaka city.
The structure is a symbol of the period when Dhaka city saw its landscape change with the construction of many buildings following its recognition as the provincial capital of Eastern Bengal and Assam in 1905, he noted.
Following the Partition of Bengal, the centre for agricultural extension services was transferred to Dhaka, and the laboratory building was constructed in 1909 to facilitate scientific research on crops, said Taimur.
"There were seven to eight such buildings. They should have been preserved in line with the Unesco convention," he said, adding that this building could be used as a museum.
Abu Sayeed M Ahmed, former president of the Institute of Architects Bangladesh, said, "We don't have many architectural buildings in the city. These structures symbolise the history of a bygone era, and that's why they must be protected."
The building at Khamarbari was constructed in the shape of a bungalow with a long veranda. This pattern was developed especially in Bengal, not in England, he added.
Taimur said they took the issue of the building's demolition to the High Court on Thursday and submitted a copy of a media report along with some photographs.
He further said the court instructed Deputy Attorney General Moniruzzaman to ensure that the authorities concerned suspend the demolition work till October 31.
Contacted over the phone on Thursday, Moniruzzaman said the complainants prayed to the HC for issuing a suo moto rule, but the court didn't. It asked them to submit an application on October 31.
The deputy attorney general said he conveyed the matter to the executive director of the Cotton Development Board.
Contacted yesterday, Md Farid Uddin, executive director of the board, said the responsibility for the demolition work lies with the PWD, not the board.
"A seven-storey building will be built there through the PWD, which awarded a contract to a construction firm for demolishing the old structure."
Farid also said they completed all necessary procedures and took approval from all the departments concerned, including the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) and the cultural affairs ministry, to construct a building in place of the old one.
Asked why they didn't renovate the building instead of demolishing it, he claimed it was beyond repair.
Talking to this correspondent, Rafiqul Islam, chief engineer of the PWD, said the building was not on the list of heritage sites.
Asked whether he got any instruction from the authorities to halt the demolition work, the PWD official replied in the negative.