Suhrawardy Udyan, located adjacent to Dhaka University, has a long history as a public park. From political rallies to public fairs, the grounds of this historic site have always been used for varied purposes throughout the years.
But today, the park has come to the limelight due to an unseemly decision to cut down trees to implement a “mega project”.
The Daily Star spoke to eminent academics and intellectuals to explore the reasons behind, and consequences of such a decision.
Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Chowdhury is outspoken about his lack of support for such an initiative.
“It is very much unfair. The number of trees in the city is already insufficient. We cannot support an initiative that fells trees. This will set an example, encouraging people to cut down trees in the name of development wherever they want,” said Prof Serajul.
Professor of physics at Dhaka University, Dr Md Kamrul Hassan, said, “This move to cut trees must be stopped immediately. Trees must be replanted wherever trees have already been felled. This development project must be revised.”
Prof Kamrul expressed his shock at the idea of cutting trees for “development”.
“At mega cities in developed countries, every citizen has access to a park within a 30-minute walking distance. Moreover, we need more greenery because our population density is higher,” he said.
“Instead, trees are being felled here. We cannot understand why restaurants would have to be constructed inside Suhrawardy Udyan,” said Prof Kamrul.
“If this malpractice cannot be stopped, it will encourage further destruction of greenery. Trees would be cut for constructing car parking, shopping mall and other concrete structures,” he said, adding that trees are particularly needed due to the park’s proximity to Dhaka University.
“Trees are also being felled to make room for other constructions at DU. But trees are very necessary for the nearly 35,000 students of the university,” said Prof Kamrul, “Now, the country is controlled by businesspersons who are taking advantage of the university’s closure.”
“If the university was open, students would surely protest. The university should protest this move,” Prof Kamrul further said.
Architect Mubasshar Hussein said, “I was a member of the committee that oversaw the glass tower construction at Suhrawardy Udyan. At one stage, the government allowed marble constructions around the tower without our consent. This was done to facilitate a company that supplied marble stones.”
“And what is the result of that? Now people cannot go near the tower during daytime because the stones get too heated up when the sun shines,” he explained.
He also chalked out a solution to keep the trees unharmed despite construction of restaurants.
“The trees can guide the seating arrangement and design of the area. Eco-friendly material like straw can be used to set up stalls. People would welcome it,” he said.
“I think more trees are being felled than was necessary,” said Mubasshar, “Those trees needed around 50 years to reach today’s stage. And they were felled in one night.”
The authorities concerned should have arranged a public hearing over this issue, he said.
“Whenever such projects are initiated, the government forms a committee headed by a bureaucrat. Though efficient in running administration, they are not engineering or architecture experts. This culture needs to go,” said the architect.
“Cutting trees has a long-term adverse effect. When concrete structures replace greenery, surface water cannot go underground. So water level under Dhaka is decreasing every day,” said Mubasshar.
“The masterminds behind this project should be punished. Even, I have requested the prime minister to punish those who provide such evil suggestions to her,” concluded Mubasshar Hussein.