A dozen old fruit bearing trees and scores of flowering plants have been recently felled by the authorities of Mohakhali DOHS, a posh residential neighbourhood for armed forces officers in the capital, to make room for a Tk 1.5 crore “beautification” work, said residents.
The trees, including coconut, jackfruit, wood apple, olive, Neem, Kadam and Mahogany, had shaded the west end of a water body by Lake Road, they said.
The flowering plants include Joba, Mollika, Shiuli, Kamini, Karabi and Radhachura, said one inhabitant who is among the first ones to have taken up residence by Lake Road.
On condition of anonymity, she said the vegetation of local species was planted over the past two decades.
The lake development scheme and beautification work comprises a concrete pavement and beds for foreign flowering plants, said the residents. Other components include tiling and widening of walkways, hedging of the lake bank and lighting.
“We are shocked seeing the authorities all of a sudden to have started eliminating an existing oasis of greenery in the name of beautification without any consultation with the inhabitants though we had passionately grown it over many years,” she said.
“The lake improvement and beautification work could have been carried out without chopping down so many trees,” said Maj Afsar, senior vice-president of house owners' association of Defence Officers' Housing Scheme (DOHS).
Following a DOHS proposal, the Dhaka cantonment board hired a landscaping firm named Garden Centre to execute the work and the trees were cut down hurriedly, he said.
The trees were brought down on the plea that those were planted haphazardly, said Afsar, but it drew strong public reaction in the neighbourhood.
The association President Brig Gen (retd) Md Mosharaf Hossain said except for some coconut trees and a Neem tree, no other tree has been felled.
The former was removed for the “hazard” of coconuts falling on residents walking by the lake and the latter to make room for a concrete bed for flowering plants, he said.
Initiated by the cantonment board, the Tk 1.5 crore work is a big scheme being implemented under direct supervision of the army headquarters, he said.
Shaheenul Islam, director of Inter Service Public Relations Directorate, also cited the haphazard positioning as the reason for some trees to have been cut down to make way for the lake development work.
A few residents might be aggrieved as they considered the trees to be their private property, he said, adding, “But the development work is being implemented in the interest of the entire DOHS community.”
Last year, the inhabitants complained of uncontrolled commercial use of the residential properties through the establishment of offices by real estate and garment companies, buying houses, massage parlours and non-government organisations.
The then association president Brig Gen (retd) Salzer Rahman had said house owners rent out residential spaces for commercial purposes in exchange for much higher rents.
But there are no stringent rules to prevent such deterioration and no enforcement if there are any, he had added.
The DOHSs are part of relevant cantonments and are governed by associated cantonment boards and army headquarters under cantonment laws, said Shaheenul, but the owners' association too has a role in enforcing rules to maintain the residential environment.
Mohakhali DOHS with 536 housing plots was initiated in the mid-1980s.