Fencing at JS draws flak | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 31, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 31, 2015

Fencing at Bangladesh parliament draws flak

Security experts ridicule the idea; architects see it as another blow to Louis I Kahn's design

Authorities are still going ahead with fencing the plazas and sprawling lawns of the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban on “security grounds”, despite professionals' criticism that it would only undermine the parliament building's architectural grandeur.

Security experts want a concrete wall and iron bars on top of it saying it was necessary to stop any approaching vehicles breaching the security, according to various sources.   

The design of the fence, including a 2.5-foot-high reinforced concrete wall and six-foot triangular iron spikes on top, was not approved by the Nagar Unnayan Committee either, said Abu Sayeed M Ahmed, president of Institute of Architects Bangladesh (IAB) and a member of the committee.

The parliament complex is a listed heritage site and any construction around it has to be approved by the Nagar Unnayan Committee, said Sayeed.    

“As such, the fence is illegal,” said Sayeed. 

The Nagar Unnayan Committee had initially approved a 10-inch underground concrete base and a vertical eye-level iron fence, said Mubasshar Hussain, former IAB president, who was then a member of the committee.  

“But the fence now being installed is not approved by the committee,” he said.

Air Commodore (retd) Ishfaq Ilahi Choudhury, a leading security analyst, said such a fence would at best prevent stray animals from entering and would not guarantee any protection against threats. 

The fortress-like Sangsad Bhaban itself is secured by design, he said, adding that there were modern devices and means to ensure security as well. The US Capitol Hill complex is always open to the public, who stroll and relax in the adjoining lawns, yet the US parliament is strongly protected.

The people should be allowed to enjoy the open space of the south plaza and the lawns of Sangsad Bhaban and a physical barrier would only keep them away.   

Brig Gen (retd) Shahedul Anam Khan, another leading security expert, said it was a ridiculous idea.   

Security threats with vehicles could be stopped with hidden spike strips, blocks and other means without hurting the architectural beauty of the Sangsad, he said.   

IAB President Sayeed said it was not comprehensible how such a concrete wall could provide security when the proposed metro rail would go through 200 feet inside the eastern lawn of the parliament complex and when two access roads to the parliament already exist.

The move was inconsistent with the national demand for declaring the Sangsad Bhaban a world heritage site, he said, adding that the sprawling lawns on the east and west and the south plaza must remain open to public as per the master plan of the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban.

World famous architect Louis I Kahn designed the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban, built on 200 acres of land, which is a part of an 800-acre citadel of 1600-acre capitol complex in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, said leading architects. 

Eminent architect Shamsul Wares said the parliament is a priceless epic masterpiece of architecture and one of the world's best works of all times, considering the use of space, form, light and its proportion.

Such a physical barrier was not advised in the original design and does not guarantee prevention of any attack, he said, adding that in today's world security was ensured by intelligence and high-tech devices, like surveillance through CCTV and powerful sensors.

“The government's position in this regard is inconsistent, as on the one hand it says that the Bangladesh Secretariat would be built in the parliament complex as per the original design of Louis I Kahn but at the same time it is building such a fence violating the design.”

The security concerns are already dealt with in Kahn's original design. For example, the security tunnel in the north plaza was to ensure safe entrance of VIPs, he said. 

In the original design, Sangsad Bhaban south plaza is a symbol of democratic space for the people's connection with their elected representatives, he said. 

But such a physical barrier would keep people away from the parliament and it would virtually disassociate them from the foremost democratic institution, he said.

Kahn's master plan for the citadel of Sher-e-Bangla Nagar capitol complex has so far been grossly infringed on thrice -- with the building of residences for speaker and deputy speaker, the mazar of former president Ziaur Rahman, and Bangabandhu International Conference Centre, he said.    

Selim Khan, relevant executive engineer of Public Works Department, who has just been promoted to superintendent engineer, said they were implementing the Tk 9.5 crore project. The entire western lawn had already been fenced off and work was ongoing at the north plaza.

Pranab Chakraborty, additional secretary to inter parliamentary affairs and security at the Parliament Secretariat, said it was a “primary security fencing” to prevent any trespassing, particularly during the night and when parliament was in session.

He, however, claimed that the design of the present fence was endorsed by the Nagar Unnayan Committee.

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