Change Maker: From crime den to a safe park
A dark, doomed slum area infested with drug pedlars and local hoodlums.
The expanse of land on the banks of the Louhajang River had long been an area of gambling and criminal bustle.
Adjacent to the Tangail district jail, the Hazra Ghat was mostly under the control of corrupt police officials who cut a share of illegal earnings from the makeshift shops and structures.
The stench from the waters engulfed the vicinity as shops, restaurants and houses nearby all dumped waste into the river.
As the sun set on the banks, locals did not dare walk past the slum for fear of mugging, while rickshaw pullers and auto drivers refused to haul passengers to the area.
It was the foresight and desire to make a positive change of Mahbub Alam, superintendent of police in Tangail, which transformed the place into the most beautiful park in the locality now.
The Tangail district administration conducted drives in September last year to remove the illegal structures from the few acres of government-owned lands on the banks of the Louhajang River. But soon after, land grabbers returned to occupy the free space.
It was then that Alam decided to put his foot down and make a permanent change by turning it into a park.
When Alam sought help from local businesses to fund the project, Safiullah Al Munir, chairman of Index Group, and authorities from Alauddin Textile Mills picked up the bill.
With help from the contractor of the Dhaka-Tangail four-lane highway project, he excavated around 200m of the dead canal and bound the banks of a meandering river branch in a mere two weeks.
The newly dredged canal got a facelift with the water hyacinths and wastes being pulled out.
“Truth be told, I initially intended to turn it into a simple flower garden. But seeing the encouragement from the locals, it turned into a large-scale project and was completed in just six months,” said the SP.
Flower beds outlining the river banks and lush green grass all around -- it is now a sight to behold.
Locals sit idly on the concrete park benches along the river bank, children play on the swings, slides and see-saws while families are seen enjoying picnics underneath the permanent umbrella structures next to flowing fountains.
The large trees provide shade to those resting after their morning walks along the paved walkways.
At sunset, lamps along the walkways light up the park. Both male and female security personnel from the nearby police line are present at all times to ensure safety.
Although the park is near completion, authorities could not hold back the locals from entering and enjoying the scenic beauty.
People are entranced by the winged horse statues at the entrance, while there is no ticket booth to charge an entry fee.
"We expect the work to finish soon. Our Inspector General of Police Shahidul Haque will inaugurate the park next month," said Alam.
Much appreciated and praised, people have lovingly named the park 'SP Park' to express gratitude to Alam for his efforts.
Abdul Latif, a resident of Hazra Ghat area, said, “It is surprising to see how the once filthy place has now been transformed into such a beautiful, natural park in a short span of time.”
Nizam Uddin of Charabari village in Sadar upazila said, “My family and I come here often, even though we live far away.”
It is important that children run and play in fresh air, said Naoshad Rana Sunvee, principal of a kindergarten school in the town. “Since entry to the park is free, children come here often to play on the rides.”
Tangail that is 100km Northwest of Dhaka lacked proper recreational activities. Locals usually flocked to the DC Lake that was newly built by the district administration about a year and half ago. However, the park charges a fee to enter and get up on the rides.
“We will decide on the nitty-gritty of the park's upkeep and maintenance after it is completed,” said the SP.