History turning into rubble
Old Dhaka's Paridas Road is starting to turn grey, not in the sense that it's getting older by the day, but due to concrete slabs being erected all around.
While walking through it, one will be surrounded by rows of buildings with modern architecture. Although there are still some old structures, they are increasingly getting overshadowed by the brand-new homes and offices.
On Rupchan Lane, the scene is the same, where preparations to demolish the old structures to replace them with new ones is well underway.
There's only one small problem. Both the roads should be preserved as historical sites, according to Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk).
On February 2, 2009, Rajuk published a gazette declaring four such areas to be Dhaka's heritage. Considering the historical, aesthetic, scientific, social and religious importance of sites in the capital's masterplan, the organisation also declared 93 structures of Dhaka as pieces of heritage.
According to Rule 71 of Dhaka Metropolitan Building (Construction, Development, Preservation and Removal) Rules-2006, changing the condition of buildings, installations, open spaces, roads and alleys located within historically important structures and areas without permission is completely prohibited.
But with every passing day, these remnants of the past are being wiped out, as the laws, including Rajuk's gazettes, only remain on paper.
According to the Rajuk gazette, there are four protected areas in Dhaka.
In Farashganj, four roads are protected: Rishikesh Das Road, Rebati Mohan Das Road, BK Das Road and Farashganj Road.
The protected roads in Shankharibazar area include Shankharibazar Road, Tantibazar Road and Panitola Road.
In Sutrapur area, Hemendra Das Road and Paridas Road are to be protected, and in Ramna area, Baily Road, Minto Road, Hare Road and Park Avenue were mentioned in the gazette.
The structures, buildings, roads, alleys and even open spaces in these areas will be considered as historically important. But a visit to these places will reveal that this history is slowly fading.
Of the holding numbers 50 to 56 on Paridas Road, only 51 and 52 still have their old structures.
Although the houses numbered one to three on Hemendra Das Road are old, everything else is new. It was learned that many have not taken permission from Rajuk or Urban Development Committee to construct these newer buildings.
Architect Taimur Islam, chief executive of Urban Study Group, told The Daily Star that Rajuk has never protected these areas in a proper way.
Although construction work for some buildings was stopped, Rajuk later let it resume. This happened in the case of 7, Rishikesh Das Lane. It allowed the construction of buildings there, showing various arguments, he said.
Contacted, Ashraful Islam, town planner (in-charge) of Rajuk, said, "If any building violates the rules, we identify them as illegal. If a building is built in a heritage area without any kind of approval, we will take action in accordance with the building construction rules."