After facing backlash from different organisations and environmental activists, the public works department said it cut down trees at the Suhrawardy Udyan upon directives of the Liberation War affairs ministry for the implementation of a mega project at the historic site.
On Wednesday, the Liberation War affairs ministry in a statement claimed that there was a misunderstanding among people due to different media reports that published partial news regarding the project implementation.
It, however, admitted that some trees were felled at the Suhrawardy Udyan as part of the implementation. But at the same time, around 1,000 new trees will be planted there, said the ministry, adding that it expects support from citizens in this regard.
The project, titled "Shawdhinata Stambha Construction Project in Dhaka", began its third phase, worth Tk 265.44 crore, in January 2018.
Implementation organisations of the project include the Liberation War affairs ministry, the department of public works and Dhaka South City Corporation.
Under the project, public toilets, walkways, food courts, artificial ponds, underground parking lots, underpasses and mosques will be constructed.
Environmentalists and educationists yesterday lambasted the government for destroying environment at the Suhrawardy Udyan.
Architect Iqbal Hossain, joint general secretary of the Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, yesterday told The Daily Star that bureaucrats added the idea of setting up restaurants and amusement centres in the project without informing experts.
"This is like the coronavirus -- the way it attacked our lung without our knowledge, they [bureaucrats] have also moved to attack the heart of Dhaka city," he added.
He demanded that the government bring to book the perpetrators involved in destroying the environment.
Educationist and Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Chowdhury said it is an unfair and unjust act. The city does not have enough trees to begin with, so cutting trees at the Suhrawardy Udyan is not justified in any way.
"No matter how much development is taking place, we have to keep the trees safe," he added.
Architect Mubasshar Hussein said the work should have started with a public hearing.
"They would then have various suggestions… Suggestions could be made on how to do this by keeping the trees alive. If a restaurant had to be built, it could be made of straw or bamboo between the trees. People have welcomed it before -- our architects have won the Aga Khan Award for their bamboo installations."
Referring to the indirect damage caused by deforestation, he said, "Everyone sees it as just deforestation. But, in my view, it is more than that. As a result of cutting trees and laying concrete, rain water can no longer go underground… If all access to groundwater is blocked this way, the danger will increase."
LEGAL NOTICE SERVED
Six rights organisations and an architect collectively served a legal notice to the government yesterday, demanding of it not to cut the trees at Suhrawardy Udyan and to damage environment and natural characteristics in the capital.
Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela), Association for Land Reforms and Development (ALRD), Nijera Kori (NK), Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (BAPA), Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), and architect Mubasshir Hossain sent the legal notice.
The notice was served to the authorities of the government asking them to plant trees three times higher than those have been cut at the same places in Suhrawardy Udyan.
In the legal notice, they also requested the authorities to protect and preserve the original and natural historical shape of Suhrawardy Udyan.