No room for heritage
It seems like Dhaka is on its way to remove all traces of its glorious past as another heritage building is on the brink of destruction, ready to be lost like many other historical structures of the city.
Locals said present owners of a two-story heritage building located at 20 Pyari Das Road in Bangla Bazar, have started to demolish it a few days back.
But it was stopped when police went there and challenged the move, they said.
The development comes only a month after the demolition of the Neelam Ghar, a century-old heritage building in Old Dhaka.
But activists are not so hopeful even though the demolition work have stopped.
Taimur Islam, chief executive of conservation organisation Urban Study Group, said they were informed by architect Augustin Anjan on Wednesday morning about the demolition of the over 100-year-old building and managed to stop it with the help of law enforcers from Sutrapur Police Station.
"But from our past experience, we can say that there's no reason to think that it has been stopped permanently. We're certain that they are going to start again today or tomorrow, maybe in the middle of the night. That's what they do," he said.
He also said the initiative is a violation of a 2018 High Court directive that ordered the authorities to stop changing, modifying and demolishing 2,200 British-era buildings named in USG's list of heritage sites in Old Dhaka.
Contacted, Md Momin Uddin, director (zone-7) of Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk). said they sent their local inspector just after getting this information and coordinated with the local police station to stop the work.
"This building is not in the heritage list of Rajuk. But it is listed among the 2,200 British era buildings that the High Court ordered to conserve," he said.
"We will issue notice to the owners as they have violated the directive. If they do not provide satisfactory answers or take steps in this regard, we will submit a complaint report to the Supreme Court in this regard," he added.
He clarified that the demolition process did not begin with Rajuk's approval, which is another violation of the existing laws.
Besides, locals have alleged that influential political leaders were behind the demolition.
Despite repeated attempts, Arif Hossain, councillor of ward-43, could not be reached for comments.
During recent visit to the site, it was found locked and these correspondents could not find anyone.
According to Rajuk, the name of the current owner of the building is Hazi Md Kamal Hossain.
Contacted, his manager "Salman" said local police station told them that they could not demolish the building so they stopped the work.
As to why they were demolishing the heritage building, he did not answer.
He also did not want to disclose the name of the owner and stopped receiving calls from this correspondent.
THE HERITAGE BUILDING
This two-storied building stands on a sprawling site at the intersection of Pyari Das road and Harish Chandra Basu Road in Bangla Bazar, with the two roads running along the northern and the western side respectively, said Taimur.
The site used to cover an area of approximately 0.5 acres (19,000sqft approx). But recently, a large portion of the site was sold off along with its historical ancillary structures.
A new mid-rise building (storied) has been constructed there.
However, the site still has a considerable size, almost 0.3 acres (13,000sqft approx) in area, Taimur said.
"The building is basically a U-Shaped structure in layout, with a sizable court yard opening to the south. The exterior walls on the other three sides are embellished with superimposed orders. The roadside facades are similar in length -- almost 105 feet long and each of the facades is divided into eight bays comprising superimposed arcades with double-height paneled pilasters in between, giving the building a grand appearance.
The superimposed arcades are embellished with arch motifs supported by panels covering the whole length of the pilasters decorated with foliated motifs. This also gives the structures a totally unique appearance.
"The pilasters are topped with Corinthian capitals. The two bays on the sides of the northern walls where the main entrance was located are slightly projected, adding a touch of farther grandeur to the roadside walls in the front," he said.
The roadside facades are further embellished with decorative dentils, cornices, and stylised parapets, Taimur added.
A projected balcony runs around the whole length of the inner walls wrapping around the courtyard. The balcony is supported by ornately decorated metal columns in the ground floor, while the sloped roof is made of CI sheet and supported by slightly decorated metal posts.