A recent front page FE photograph of a vast railway land lying uncared for in Dhaka is in sharp contrast with a news report about the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC). The news deals with a city beautification project undertaken by the corporation in the capital's Karwanbazar area. According to the DSCC plan, the long-neglected triangular park, now decaying, to the west of Sonargaon Hotel will be renovated thoroughly. After completing a number of structural constructions and transformations, the previous park is set to be developed into a spectacular recreational centre. Specially built to cater to the resting and time-passing needs of the pedestrians, the remodelled space will also accommodate children. Moreover, with the implementation of the corporation's plan to turn the space into an oasis of sorts, it will be covered with leafy trees, flower plants and orchids. Besides, there will be provisions for juvenile amusements, along with snacks corners.
The largely deserted park reminds many Dhaka dwellers of similar spots lying scattered across the city. Many once vibrant street-side parks falling into bad times over the decades, and becoming extinct eventually, have long been a typical sight in Dhaka. Amid the presence of these decrepit recreational venues, the government plots, mostly large in size, left unused for long stand out with their dormant prospects. The vast railway plot as shown in the FE photograph may cause pain to many. The deserted patch of land adjacent to the Kuril Flyover has a railway track beside it. Filled with wild bushes and a few trees, the land in its middle part has a few unplanned sheds, along with an open space that appears to be a garage compound. To define the place in a few words, it fits in with an abandoned place with none to tend to it. But the place belongs to the Bangladesh Railway. The state entity once owned acres of vacant government lands in the vicinity of the three city railway stations and on the two sides of the rail track. A lot of these plots have been used by the government for its offices and other buildings. The rest have been lying for decades on end vacant and illegally occupied. The outer view of the land near Kuril Flyover scathingly speaks of its ownership status: a plot veritably forgotten by the railway authorities.
Leaving government lands like this one in such a neglected state doesn't conform to the authorities' willingness to build Dhaka as beautiful city. To the disillusionment of many, this is a naked exercise in indulging in contradictory positions. That these unused spots can be taken possession of by the city corporations to turn them into parks and recreational spots doesn't require much brainwork. In the case of development of the Kuril landed plot, the onus apparently lies with the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC). In fact, both the city corporations can exert their jurisdictions over government-owned unused lands as local government authorities. Such plots cannot be left unutilised for indefinite periods. Squatters and land-grabbing syndicates are on the prowl. Due to the nonchalance of the land-owning entities, vast tracts of these plots have slipped into illegal possessions in the last few decades. This may appear like frittering away great opportunities to build recreational centres in Dhaka.
As observed at seminars and symposiums on occasions, the capital of Bangladesh suffers from an acute dearth of land. It is this drawback in the main, which deters the city corporations from embarking on ambitious plans on public recreational centres. By utilising the vacant and virtually unused government plots, both the DSCC and DNCC can pleasantly deliver on their pledges of building adequate recreational spots for the Dhaka residents.
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