Jahangirnagar University authorities’ decision to cut down over 1,100 trees -- to make way for five to-be-constructed dormitories -- have drawn the ire of students and teachers.
Under a development project worth Tk 1,445 crore, JU authorities have initiated to construct five 10-storey residential dormitories -- three for male and two for female students.
On June 30, the university authorities laid foundation stones of the dorms.
Terming it “unplanned development”, several students and teachers’ groups have raised concerns and urged the authorities to move away from the decision.
They alleged that the university authorities made the master plan without consulting different stakeholders of the university.
Construction companies have primarily marked around 1,132 trees on the campus to chop down -- mostly teak, rain tree, mango, pine, mahogany, korai, Golap Jam, Indian gooseberry (amlaki), elephant apple (chalta), jackfruit and other species, including some endangered ones.
A lush green area on the campus, popularly known as “Santiniketan” among students, has been selected to build the male dormitories, triggering criticism among former and current students, who say they want infrastructures, but not at the cost of deforestation. Teachers and students, under the banner of “Teachers-Students Unity Platform”, staged demonstrations on campus and submitted a memorandum to Vice-Chancellor Prof Farzana Islam with seven-point demand last Monday.
Visiting the spots, this correspondent found around 897 trees marked near Bishwakabi Rabindranath Tagore Hall, where the three male dorms will be constructed.
To build the two female dormitories, a total of 207 trees will have to be cut down, adjacent to the Tarzan Point of the campus, a popular hangout spot for students.
Not only the trees, the students of the dorm will also lose their allocated playground because of construction of a new dormitory. Besides, 28 more trees will also be razed there.
Students of the dorm submitted a separate memorandum to the VC last week, demanding that the location of the new dorms be changed. They also held a human chain on campus with the demand yesterday.
Prof Anu Muhammad of Economics department -- also a noted environmental activist -- said, “A lion’s share of the university’s land has already been spoiled due to the unplanned infrastructure. We cannot accept the damage to the environment of the university anymore.”
He also said the master plan of the new dormitories should be revealed publicly.
Asked about alternative location for the dormitories, associate professor Rayhan Rhyne, co-coordinator of the student-teacher platform, said, “We did not get any scope to give alternative proposal, as the university authorities have kept us in the dark over this matter. I spoke to a number of senate members who said they were informed of the master plan.”
Contacted, JU VC Prof Farzana Islam said, “For the last three and a half years, we have been talking about the plan in many discussions, at many forums. But, we did not get any suggestion from them [protesters]. We are doing it an organised manner, prioritising students’ accommodation crisis.”
She also said an old playground near Al Beruni Hall will be renovated for students, and more trees will be planted after the construction, which she said would grow up in the next few years.