(WATCH) A place to breathe | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 21, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 05:37 PM, September 21, 2020

A place to breathe

DSCC sprucing up 19 parks, 12 playgrounds; work for 4 already completed, rest by June next year

First-grader Hasibur Rahman Anu was elated while playing at the eastern side of the Hazi Abdul Alim playground in Old Dhaka on Saturday.

Nowadays, he often comes here along with his cousin Zunayed, a class-3 student, under the watchful eyes of their parents.

But it was not like this before.

Just a few years ago, a large portion of the field used to be occupied by truckers while Old Dhaka locals avoided the place as it was a den for anti-social activities. Many also used the spot as a garbage dumping ground.

The field was renovated and opened in November last year with a complete facelift. 

Now, with a big lush green space in its middle, there are separate places designated for children of all age groups to play. Besides, there are walkways around the main playground where different age groups' exercise even at night as the field has sufficient lights and sitting arrangements.

A two-storey building houses a gym and a coffee shop at the north-east corner of the field, which continues to increase people's interest to spend time there with family or friends.

And the good news is that this is not the only field with these features.

All the 31 parks and playgrounds under Dhaka South City Corporation are being modernised as part of a project "Jol Sobujer Dhaka".

They will have similar features once the work is done, said officials.

DSCC took up a mega project in 2016 during the tenure of former mayor Sayeed Khokon, involving 70 architects to modernise 19 parks and 12 playgrounds under its jurisdiction.

"We have already completed four. All the parks and playgrounds will be completed by June next year," said Md Rafiq Azam, principal architect of SHATOTTO, an architecture firm and team leader of the consultants of the mega project.

He said they have freed the parks and playgrounds from the occupiers and renovated those under the plan, keeping its openness to ensure the access of people even at night.

The concept of surrounding parks with walls is not right as it helps drug peddlers and addicts to easily occupy those. Moreover, most playgrounds had no grass because the technology to maintain grass on fields is not being used properly, said Azam.

But now there are no boundary walls and anyone can see the parks from outside and access those even at night as they have sufficient lights, he said.

Azam said they have also solved the waterlogging issue at the parks and playgrounds by setting up trenches to preserve rainwater so that it can be reused round the year.

During a recent visit to Abdul Alim playground, this correspondent found some children aged between eight and 14 were playing football to their heart's content.

"This field even has a dedicated space for children," said a busy Rezanur Reza in between running around. The nine-year-old resident of Lalbagh was more interested in playing than talking.

A similar theme prevailed at the recently-renovated Bahadur Shah Park, once called Victoria Park, where women were seen chatting and strolling at 9pm.

"I feel comfortable to come here even at night as the environment is very pleasant and safe," said Puja Rani Das, a resident of Razar Douri in Old Dhaka.

The present design has also increased the width and length of walkways for which a huge number of people can walk comfortably. There is no boundary wall or fences around the park.

About the project, Rafiq Azam said it was quite challenging as they had to motivate locals to make it successful since they are one of the major stakeholders. He said they also added libraries, coffee shops, gymnasiums and toilets in the parks and playground.

"We will use those as money earning sources, which will be used for their management. We are now trying to form a local management committee to make it functional," he said.

Azam said they will also plant varieties of trees so that people can experience the distinctive features of all six seasons simply by looking at the blooming of flowers like Krisnachura, Kadam, Radhachura, Bakul and so forth.

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