The primary design of the Shadhinota Stambha (third phase) in Suhrawardy Udyan had no provision for cutting down trees but many were chopped down for walkways that were included in the design later, said architects involved in the project.
Many features, like underground car park, food stalls, public toilets, and walkways, were redesigned in the third phase violating the master plan and without consulting the designers who prepared the master plan, they added.
Green activists and different social organisations recently staged demonstrations protesting feeling of trees in Suhrawardy Udyan after the incident hit the headlines.
A Department of Architecture architect, who was involved in the third phase project, also admitted that there was no provision for cutting down trees in the primary design.
Architect Merina Tabassum, one of the master planners, said their firm worked for the first two phases of the project since 1997.
Landscaping was a major part of the master plan, she said, adding that they prepared the landscaping design under the supervision of late architect Muzharul Islam and late naturalist Dwijen Sharma.
Most of the trees in Suhrawrady Udyan are mehgani, shishu, and ekashia trees. Merina said they had no plan to cut trees under the master plan, rather they suggested planting more trees of seasonal flowers and fruits.
The authorities concerned can only fell trees when the newly planted ones are mature, but they have to do it in phases, she said.
The architect said cutting trees for building walkways and improving the landscape was not acceptable as those could be done saving the trees.
Merina said although their firm was involved in the first two phases of the project, they were not asked for their opinion on the third phase and the authorities did not follow the master plan either.
According to the architect involved in the third phase plan, there would be an entry to Suhrawardy Udyan from close to Shishu Park. Besides, six public toilets and six small food stalls would be constructed. There would be a designated place for those who would maintain the toilets.
The architect requesting not to be named said a parking lot would be built for 500 cars without damaging the natural underground recharge capacity or cutting any trees. The Shahbagh police box would be relocated and 50 flower shops would be set up in place of the existing flower market.
Initially, the ministries of housing and public works, liberation war affairs and cultural affairs were involved in the project. But the liberation war affairs ministry has now taken over the implementation of the project, the architect said.
Mir Manzurur Rahman, chief architect of Department of Architecture, said there was no provision for cutting any large trees in the primary design of the third phase.
Even if trees were needed to be felled, only the small ones would be cut and more would be planted for landscaping, he added.
Asifur Rahman Bhuiyan, superintendent architect of the department, claimed that they did not change the primary design of the third phase, but included walkways in it.
He said walkways would be built so that greens could be protected and people walk only on walkways.
Asifur said they were trying to save large trees which were within the alignment of the walkways. He said they would plant more trees in a planned way taking suggestions from experts.
Implementation of the Tk 265.44 crore third phase started in January 2018.
Adil Mohammad Khan, general secretary of Bangladesh Institute of Planners, said the authorities did not seek expert opinion on the third phase plan before finalising it.
Making a plan public before finalising it is a global practice, but they did not follow it, he said.
Adil said the authorities should have taken opinions from specialists, including architects, urban planners, botanists and socialists.