<i>A heritage site in city heart overshadowed</i>
The new building of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) headquarters at Shaheed Captain Mansur Ali Sarani will despoil the character of the century-old exclusive residential area, Minto Road, said conservationists and experts.
Public Works Department (PWD) is implementing the six-storey building without building approval, overshadowing the existing beautiful old structure at the site.
The old house is one of the contemporary buildings of Curzon Hall built in the colonial era bearing testimony to the architectural style of that period. The DMP has been running its office at the old building since its inception on February 1, 1976.
Conservationist architect Abu Sayeed M Ahmed said character of the residential enclave with open space and greenery should have been protected as a distinct feature of the city.
“Permanent establishment of the DMP headquarters will certainly destroy the residential character of the neighbourhood,” he said.
High government officials during British period used to reside at the old building. Speaker of the then East Pakistan assembly also used to stay at the house.
Immediately after independence, the house was allotted as residence of General MAG Osmani, the supreme commander during the Liberation War, official source said.
During the post-independence Bangladesh, the then minister Abdur Rab Serniabat used to stay at the house until he was assassinated on August 15, 1975. The house is a two-storey building with wooden stairs, high ceiling and spacious rooms.
Professor Muntasir Mamoon, a noted historian who has worked extensively on Dhaka, said Minto Road area was elegantly planned as an urban settlement in the Ramna Green at the heart of Dhaka that became the capital of East Bengal and Assam in 1905.
“The entire Ramna Green, which is one of the eternal heritage areas of the country, must be protected,” he said. “Mutilation of it in any manner is unacceptable.”
Contacted, a high official of the public works ministry seeking anonymity said the residential set-up at Minto Road has so far been in its original state and it should remain as an exclusive residential area as originally planned.
“DMP headquarters, which could have easily found a place at the police headquarters, is the lone office in the Minto Road residential area,” he said.
Meanwhile, the police department has started the construction of a 22-storey high-rise building on the premises of the police headquarters at Fulbaria.
The Department of Architecture (DoA) prepared the design of the under-construction DMP building around six to seven years back. The then prime minister Khaleda Zia laid the foundation plaque of the building on June 15, 2006.
Later, the police department was asked to retain parts of the old structure and turn it into a museum, said a source at the DoA.
Experts said design of the new building is not architecturally consistent with the existing settlement of the old buildings in Minto Road area.
The Minto Road at the back of the DMP headquarters is an exclusive and serene residential area with every house having sprawling green lawns and trees, where key administrative officials of Dhaka reside.
Most of the terracotta-colour old bungalows at Minto Road and adjacent Hare Road are with distinctive architectural pattern, see-through boundary walls and iron-grills allowing viewers to enjoy the beauty of lush green lawns.
But the house at 6, Minto Road, the official residence of the inspector general of police, has been altered with different colour and boundary wall replacing the original features without consultation with or consent of the Department of Architecture.
As a result, this particular bungalow appears out of place with loss of homogeneity with the neighbourhood.
Asked about the alteration, ASM Ismail, chief architect of the Department of Architecture, said, “It is not in our knowledge.”
According to the Building Construction Act of 1952, Metropolitan Building Construction Rules of 2008 and Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC) of 1993, anybody has to obtain prior approval for any building construction work from the designated authorities.
Converting a residential plot into another without obtaining permission from Rajuk is a violation of Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan (DMDP).
Rajuk Chairman KAM Haroon said he could not remember whether building approval has been obtained for construction of the DMP headquarters.
On the other hand, Sheikh Abdul Mannan, director (development) of Rajuk, said, “PWD has never sought building approval from Rajuk.”
Chief Engineer of PWD Abdullah-Al-Safi said the Department of Architecture could explain why this site has been selected for building the DMP headquarters.
Chief architect ASM Ismail however said his predecessor had dealt with the matter.
Contacted, the immediate past chief architect Abdus Salam said the decision for construction of the DMP headquarters was taken at the government's higher level.
The DMP deputy commissioner, concerned with the project, declined to make any comment in this regard on record.