A project was undertaken to develop the capital's Suhrawardy Udyan and make it greener, but authorities are seemingly contradicting one of their own goals, as under the same project, they are felling old trees to construct buildings.
A number of signs can be seen at the historic grounds stating "Project to enhance the beauty and greenery of Suhrawardy Udyan is ongoing under Public Works Department". It is worth wondering whether building concrete structures at the expense of greenery, as sources are claiming, is "enhancing the beauty".
The project, which started decades ago, is currently in its third phase.
Experts say if the government decides to cut down trees, it should consult them. Important aspects of the environment need to be protected first, and then authorities may go on with development.
Sources at the Ministry of Housing and Public Works said the trees were cut down without consulting experts.
This correspondent visited the spot recently and saw ongoing construction 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.
In the west, there were a number of trees that have been there for a long time. But they were cut down, and now, the area looks barren. According to eyewitnesses, 15 trees, planted in the 1970s, have already been felled.
A few weeks ago, floating people tried to stop workers from cutting the trees, and then informed Dhaka University (DU) students about the issue, according to some floating people who seek refuge under shades of the trees.
Wishing anonymity, a woman from the group said, "They are building some concrete structures and a road. For this reason, a number of trees, including medicinal plants, have been cut down."
On Tuesday, this correspondent saw a man drawing a picture, sitting under the shade of a tree at Suhrawardy Udyan. Golam Mortuza criticised the authorities. "To ensure people's health, trees are necessary. In European countries, they plant trees in front of mills and factories, so that people feel at peace and breathe fresh air."
"Buildings are being constructed in vacant spaces of the park, which is an eyesore," he added.
After news of the felling started circulating, many people have been protesting on Facebook, sharing the pictures of workers cutting trees.
Shakil Hasan, a former DU student, on Monday posted on his Facebook account. "Recently, it has been seen that one tree after another is being cut down at Suhrawardy Udyan, and concrete structures are being built. Why?"
"This is a place where the memory of Bangabandhu's March 7 speech lives on," he said.
Wishing anonymity, an official of Ministry of Housing and Public Works said, "The project is under the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs. Some trees, which were in our construction layout, have been cut down for development work."
Asked if any expert opinion was sought, he said, "Permission was taken from the Liberation War ministry. There is no need to take opinions of any other expert here."
Prof Zashim Uddin of DU's Botany department said, "It is not desirable to do development work at the expense of the environment; such work must be eco-friendly. And if there is a government decision to fell trees at Suhrawardy Udyan, authorities should take experts' opinions."