Gymkhana Lake: A breath of fresh air in Narayanganj
In rapidly urbanising, largely industrial Narayanganj, restoration work on the man-made Gymkhana Lake is proving to be a breath of fresh air -- quite literally -- for nearly 1.5 million dwellers of the city.
Part of the larger Baburail Canal Restoration project undertaken by the Narayanganj City Corporation (NCC) under Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy, the lake named after the city's historic Gymkhana Club is already a popular recreation spot, where residents flock to avail the space it provides for enjoying leisure time or just to hang out with friends in an outdoor setting without the feeling of choking on smog.
Some of them call it the "Hatirjheel of Narayanganj" -- after the sprawling, mid-town drainage and sanitation project of Dhaka that, with some choice beautifications, turned into something of an urban oasis for residents of the capital.
The much smaller, more compact Gymkhana Lake is bordered on its south side by the Morgan School in Deobhog, from where it stretches till the Mobarak Shah Road.
There is seating provided by the NCC on the north side of lake, while Sheikh Russel Park is an emerging east side development, currently featuring an open stage. Though the park has no lighting system of its own yet, illumination is not a problem thanks to the NCC's recent shift to LED lighting.
A pedestrian bridge in the middle of the lake is another beautiful spot on the Gymkhana Lake. Elevated and quiet, it is particularly lucrative to the younger generation.
A public toilet, a gymnasium and a women's swimming pool are in the pipeline of plans around the lake, under the Sheikh Russell Park development component, according to Mayor Ivy.
Already different cultural and political programmes have been held by the lake, the biggest of them during the last Pahela Baishakh, the Bengali New Year.
The Baburail Canal Restoration project, claimed to represent "a revolutionary milestone" in urban development by its supporters, is still nearing completion.
Yet the residents of Narayanganj already display a distinct affinity for this small component of the overall project, which once complete will reestablish the old link between the Shitalakkhya and Dhaleshwari rivers, that cradle this important city on the commercial route to Dhaka.
With important implications for commuting in the city, the two rivers' navigability, and dealing with waterlogging for the city corporation, residents of Narayanganj are eagerly looking forward to it.