Sorry state of parks in capital turning away visitors

The pathetic condition of parks in Dhaka is turning away people who used to frequent these places quite regularly once. After visiting some of the parks, The Independent found out that most of them have turned into safe haven for drug dealers and goons. Though both the North and South city corporations have taken steps to set up new parks and playgrounds, the existing ones need to be revamped immediately, feel experts.

Kabir Ali, who visits the Bahadur Shah Park regularly for jogging, said, “The condition of the place is terrible. Smokers, drug addicts and vagabonds are creating nuisance.” Said. The park located in the Sadarghat area of Old Dhaka is losing its charm slowly. The place has turned into a home for the homeless. Temporary shops have come up at the main gate and dumping of garbage is rampant. Visitors and morning walkers are now staying away from the place.

The Baldha Garden — a century-old botanical garden in Old Dhaka -- is one of the many examples how Dhaka is losing its green stretches due to utter negligence and lack of planning of the authorities concerned. The garden, which is home to over 50,000 species of trees, herbs and shrubs, has now turned into a den of anti-social activities.

The only walking zone in the Wari area of Old Dhaka is losing its charm with each passing day due to lack of maintenance. Ahamed Ikbal, a businessman and resident of the area, told the Independent that people, along with their families, used to gather here to enjoy the beauty of nature once. “But now, the place has become a safe haven for anti-social activities,” he said.

After a visit to National Botanical Garden, which is in the Mirpur area, it seemed the place is ideal for recreation. But after talking to some visitors, The Independent learnt about its true state of affairs. A worker of the garden said prostitution was going on inside the park.

While visiting the Ramna Park — one of the biggest parks in Dhaka—it was found that some recent steps taken to clean garbage by the civic body have bore fruit but the water in the lake is still dirty. The caretaker and workers are using the water of the lake for bathing and washing clothes.

Nurul Islam Bacchu, a banker and residence of the Kakrail area who regularly goes to the park for jogging, said he sees drug addicts roaming around every morning. “I used to come here with my daughter regularly. But now, I have stopped her from visiting the place,” he added.

Tariq Bin Yusuf, project director of upgradation, regeneration and greening of urban open spaces initiative of DNCC, told The Independent that they were working on developing parks and playgrounds. The Dhaka North and South city corporations have 60 playgrounds and parks under their jurisdiction. But they are not the only authorities. The public works department, Rajuk, department of forests and the department of environment are also involved in management of open public spaces.

Several other parks have also lost their charm in different ways. Dhaka’s development plan recommends an average of 0.052 square metres of parks and 0.5 square metres of open green spaces per person. However, the World Health Organization and Leadership in Energy Environmental for Neighbourhood Design have recommend nine and 20 square metres respectively.

A survey conducted on 374 people revealed that 60% of them had visited their nearest park in the past and two out of every five people (39%) said they had never visited any.

The study also revealed that in Dhaka, a lower percentage of women and elderly people visit parks, citing poor environment.

Another survey was conducted on 739 individuals and found that nine out of ten (91%) wanted the landscape to be improved, with facilities such as seats, benches and rain shelters.

The survey also found that most parks in Dhaka were noisy and lacked proper lighting, water supply, waste disposal, sanitation and walkways.

Sources said Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has started work on 26 parks and playgrounds under the ’Modernization, Development and Greening of Open Places’ project at a cost of Tk. 280 crore. Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) is also developing 31 parks and fields under the ’Jol Sobuje Dhaka’ at a cost of around Tk. 200 crore.

According to sources, the development plan includes eviction of illegal occupants, sufficient drainage system in parks and playgrounds, the planting of more trees, setting up improved toilets and drinking water facility.

Apart from walks, exercises and sports, there will be a canteen next to parks.

There will be adequate grass and border specifications and separate entertainment facilities. Lights will be provided in the park for evening walks.

Parks and grounds will not have border walls to attract visitors and sufficient number of security personnel will be deployed.

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