Open space is an asset, use it wisely
It is disconcerting how the few open spaces left in our cities are always at the risk of being encroached, polluted or repurposed by the authorities. Perhaps more frustrating is when an attempt is made to make them suitable for recreational purposes, only to be rendered unusable because of neglect. One recent example of this, as reported by this daily, is the Sheikh Russell Park near the Jatrabari intersection, which, one year into its reopening following renovation, has been largely taken over by makeshift shops and anti-social elements.
The renovation, which began in 2017, was meant to make the park a suitable space where residents could retreat to for fresh air. But in the absence of supervision and maintenance from Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), it is being increasingly used by makeshift shops, drug-peddlers and criminal gangs, making it hard for its intended beneficiaries to spend quality time there. Stench from public urination is also an issue as there is no public toilet. When asked, an executive engineer of DSCC Region-5 said the situation will improve once the park is leased out to a third party. The question is: why hasn't it happened yet? Despite the awful state of such a vital public property, why is nothing being done to free it of unwanted elements?
This is, unfortunately, a common scenario in what few parks are available in the country. The Golakmoni Shishu Park in Khulna city, for instance, is reported to have no rides for children, despite what its name suggests, and despite having been established decades ago, in 1984. Instead, it is crowded by small shops and offices of political parties, besides serving as a seating area for pharmacy representatives who frequent the diabetic hospital nearby. In the same city, another park, Mujgunni Shishu Park, remains closed for four years in the name of renovation – the promise of "modernisation" made by the city authorities proving emptier by the day. This too, we're told, is because of the absence of a lessee. Reportedly, none of the eight parks under the Khulna City Corporation has recreational facilities for children.
That city authorities in our country are most neglectful of the refreshment needs of residents is glaringly obvious. Otherwise, why are there such lengthy delays in finding lessees to maintain parks? Why would they be closed when they should be open to visitors? Given how widespread this problem has been, why aren't city corporations running the parks themselves in the absence of lessees?
It is a sorry waste of public funds and spaces when parks are left to encroachers or locked up. We would like to see our city fathers not only to inaugurate parks, but also ensure citizens are able to use them every day, without any hindrances of any sort. Given the rapid urbanisation in the country, having open, functional parks is more vital than ever.