On one side of a road that goes to Bawnia through Dolipara in Uttara, there’s a runway for planes to land at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. This restricted area is demarcated with a tall-wire fence, from which people often look through to see airplanes come and go.
There is also an open space on the other side of the road, called a “Middle Marker” -- with a setup of lights, transmitters, cables and antennas -- to give pilots a means to determine position along an established route to a destination such as a runway.
This around half square kilometre area is also restricted and walled. There is also a locality beside the Middle Marker.
However, on its north side, not only some parts of the boundary wall are damaged, but the area is also being used as a recreational spot by locals.
There are six Ansar men to maintain security in three shifts, who are unable to restrict such movement of people. They also claimed that many engage in anti-social activities there as the area is mostly secluded.
In addition to the risk of interfering with plane landing or damaging the equipment or a serious accident, some locals have started to cultivate vegetables towards the end of the Middle Marker.
People in the area also throw garbage over the walls [not more that 6-8 feet tall] and dump those beside the damaged parts.
After visiting the area in the middle of October, this correspondent informed the matter to Platoon Commander (Ansar and VDP) Siddiqur Rahman, who at that time was in charge of ensuring security in the area.
He said he joined around a year ago and is aware of the damaged walls. “Since no one complained, we did not take any step in this regard.”
Asked about unrestricted movement of people and the danger it poses, he suggested that this newspaper speaks to higher authorities.
Aviation Security Director Commander Obaidur Rahman also did not want to comment on the matter either and made a similar suggestion.
Contacted, Dhaka airport Director AHM Touhid-ul Ahsan said he did not know about the situation and would take necessary steps as the place is a “sensitive area.”
“It is a sensitive area because when a plane approaches, antennas signal the pilot whether the airplane is on the right track or on the [runaway’s] centre line.
That is to aid navigation and necessary for operation,” he told this correspondent the same month.
More than a month went by since this newspaper informed the authorities of the matter. This correspondent visited the area early this month but nothing seemed to have changed.
However, during a visit yesterday, it was seen that some bushes were cleaned and construction work to build a boundary wall near the “vegetable farm” was ongoing.
The workers said they started the work last week.
But people were still seen entering the area as per whim and dumping household garbage inside the Middle Marker.
While talking to some people working on the vegetable patch, they said they live nearby and are working there for more than a year. They did not want to say the name of the person they work for as he is an “influential” local, who sells the produce after cultivation.
The workers said they know that the land belongs to the airport.
Meanwhile, a group of students were seen playing inside the area in the afternoon.
“We always come here to play after school,” said 10-year-old Raihan.
Another youth Jubair told this correspondent to visit the place in the evening. “The area lights up and you can watch planes landing.”
They were not bothered by the fact that it was a restricted area and what they were doing was risky. “Everyone comes here to hang out,” said Raihan.
The two guards were standing nearby, unperturbed.
When approached, one of them said, “Even if we try to restrict access, it’s not possible to cover the entire area with only two people. We need more guards as the wall is damaged in many places.”
“We’ve already informed the matter to the authorities,” he added.
Contacted yesterday, Director Ahsan said they have started fixing the walls already. Regarding many still accessing the area and some continuing farming, he said, “Let me look into the matter. We will take necessary steps.”