There are few upbeat news items about Dhaka's Hatirjheel lakefront. A year after its opening in 2013, the site has continued to churn out depressing news about its state. It has been only occasionally that people eager to visit the spot along a natural lake covering the greater Tejgaon-Badda-Rampura area were greeted with hearty spectacles. And Dhaka residents along with their families were seen rushing to the spot in droves. In order to pass a couple of hours in a serene atmosphere, the visitors chose it on special occasions. Most of them thronged the sprawling lakefront on the holidays of Eid, the National Days and the other special days. Outwardly, the whole renovated recreational spot became a comfort to both the mind and the eyes. The fetid water in the spacious lake nearby was flushed out with the use of heavy pump to fill it with clean water. But lo, it took just a few months for the 'jheel' (natural water body) to revert to its earlier infamy: stench coming from the lake's sludge-filled water, reckless littering by a section of visitors, and the nuisances of eve-teasing and mugging.
As part of this cycle, the Hatirjheel recreational lakefront has once again begun demonstrating glimpses of its untapped beauty and charm. Whereas in the past, the spot comprised just a lake, part clean and charming and part stinky, the 'jheel' now has two short-length bridges across it. Tiny motor launches operating languidly on a network of stoppages at short distances have added to the attraction of the whole area.
While passing by the site just before sunset by a car now, the aerial view of Hatirjheel might remind many people of similar views in other cities. The whole spot is now flooded by light, some posted amid spaces between trees and bushes. Fenced-off balconies have jutted out into the lake from the bank. People can pass their leisure time there -- gossiping and having snacks. This facility is, in fact, rare at the waterside leisure-points in the capital these days. Many people view these facilities at Hatirjheel cautiously. It's because after days of these added attractions remaining in place to the delight of the visitors, one day they start wearing out. Finally, the process of neglect on the part of the authorities starts gripping them. Few want to see a repetition of the process. But the occasional revisit of this slipshod maintenance fully engulfing a pastime-spending spot has plagued Hatirjheel several times. Owing mainly to this reason, the spot has yet to earn unalloyed trust of the Dhaka residents. They do not want to see the occasional reversal of the site to its former moribund state.
Dhaka has a few other lakeside recreational spots in different parts of the city. The most popular of them is the Ramna Park. The lake in its middle has concrete benches placed on the two banks. But almost like Hatirjheel, the lake-water at its two ends remains thick with floating muck, layers of moss and litter thrown away by the park visitors. Security guards at the park are seen mostly engaged in driving away street urchins and busting dens of petty criminals. There are few people assigned to the task of keeping the lake's water clean and stench-free. Littering and damaging rare plants are common. The opportunity to spend an afternoon on the sides of Ramna Lake used to draw scores of visitors in the past. Unlike Hatirjheel, the beauty of the lake at Ramna Park has never faced the spectre of wholesale disappearance. This threat still haunts Hatirjheel. But, undeniably, the water body holds great recreational prospects.