Protesting an ongoing construction project at the capital's Suhrawardy Udyan, as part of which many old trees are being felled, green activists and students held a rally at Shahbagh yesterday.
They demanded a stop to tree felling and instead, planting 10,000 trees during the upcoming rainy season.
The project was undertaken to develop the Udyan and make it greener. However, activists said the authorities concerned are seemingly contradicting one of their own goals, as under the same project, they are felling old trees to construct buildings. Meanwhile, social media has also been flooded with protest against the authorities' move.
The project -- Shawdhinata Stambha Construction Project in Dhaka Third Phase -- worth Tk 265.44 crore started in January 2018. Its implementation organisations are the Liberation War ministry, Public Works Department and Dhaka South City Corporation.
According to officials, under the project, seven public toilets, walkways, food stalls, pond, underground parking lot, underpass and a mosque will be constructed.
Experts, however, said whether building concrete structures at the expense of greenery, as sources are claiming, is really "enhancing the beauty".
During yesterday's protest, filmmaker Sudip Sajib said the balance of nature at the park has been damaged in the name of beautification. "Who will take this responsibility?" he said.
Those responsible [for cutting trees] should be brought to book through a fair probe, he added.
Mir Arshadul Hoque, a former student of Dhaka University who protested tree cutting around two years back at the Udyan, said the authorities should plant more trees at the park to recover the damage they did by cutting trees.
He said they cut the trees during the "lockdown" so that people won't be able to know about it. He also alleged that some officials were financially benefited for it.
"I have counted 50 to 60 trees which were felled in the last couple of days. They even tried to hide their misdeed," he said. "We don't want food stalls, concrete structures at Suhrawardy Udyan at the expense of greenery."
This newspaper visited the spot recently and saw the ongoing construction work of six structures for making canteens. Three are in the west, two in the north-east, and one in the south-east parts of the park.
On the western side, a number of old trees were felled and the area now looks barren. According to witnesses, 15 trees, planted in the '70s, have already been felled there.
Contacted, Asifur Rahman Bhuiyan, superintendent architect of the Department of Architecture, involved with the planning and designing of the project, said they will not construct any restaurant in the Udyan, clearing trees.
He said they will construct walkways so that they can protect the greenery. Asifur said they are trying to save the big trees that are aligned with the design of the walkway, but they will cut the small ones if they fail to protect those. He also said they will plant more trees, taking suggestions from experts.
"We will set up seven toilets and sheds next to those," he said. There will also be seven small food stalls, he added.
Suhrawardy Udyan has already had several structures like the 150 feet glass tower, Shikha Anirban, an underground museum, amphitheatre, mural, and a reflecting pool.
The official said a parking lot will also be built with a capacity of 500 cars. He said they will construct it without damaging any natural groundwater recharge capacity or cutting trees.
Besides, Asifur said, the Shahbagh police box will be relocated, and 50 flower shops will be set up in place of the existing flower market.
LEGAL NOTICE SERVE
Meanwhile, a Supreme Court lawyer yesterday served a legal notice on three government high officials concerned, asking them to cancel the activities of clearing trees and setting up restaurant at Suhrawardy Udyan in 48 hours.
Lawyer Manzill Murshid sent the notice to Liberation War Affairs Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh, Public Works Department Chief Engineer Md Shamim Akhter and Chief of Architect of Bangladesh Mir Monzur Rahman through email.
In the notice, Murshid said if they don't stop such activities in 48 hours, a contempt of court petition will be filed against them.
He said many trees at the Udyan have been cut and its environment has been damaged in order to establish restaurant or shops on business purposes ignoring the 2009 High Court verdict.
Following a petition, the HC on July 7, 2009 directed the government to identify and preserve all the important historic places related to the republic's Liberation War and to set up memorial monuments at the historic places at Suhrawardy Udyan so that people from home and abroad can pay homage to martyred freedom fighters.
The HC had ordered the government to take steps to protect and maintain the historic places at the Udyan where Bangabandhu delivered his historic speech on March 7 in 1971 and where the Pakistan army surrendered on December 16, 1971.