6 years ago

Demolishing heritage sites

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Unlike many other large historic cities across the world, Dhaka appears overenthusiastic in its steps to demolish heritage sites. They include buildings in the main. The actions are evidently prompted by the urge to create space for high-rise or multi-purpose structures.
As the authorities might argue, the aging buildings occupy too much space. They stand in the way of full utilisation of the space allotted to certain structures. It is the frenzied rush for constructing buildings befitting a modern city which also plays a role in the demolition of old buildings. The newly built structures are viewed commensurate with the architectural imperatives of the times. But few people care about the blows being dealt to the city's heritage by ushering in the new-age trends. Apart from buildings, bridges, ramparts etc are also found falling victim to the demolition spree. In the developed cities, it's only the completely unusable structures that are torn down. The authorities try their best to preserve those.  Even the fragments of ruins are preserved considering their historical value. Thus the Greek capital Athens has spectacularly kept its classical grandeur alive. So have Rome, Paris, Cairo or Delhi. Compared to them, Dhaka has failed miserably in this task.   
The tearing down of a few old mosques in the Bangladesh capital to build new structures in their place in the recent times troubles many. They include the people taking pride in the city's centuries-old mosques having great archaeological value. The demolition spree may appear to be an affront to the fondly-nurtured pride in Dhaka as the 'city of mosques'. 
What makes many to draw the conclusion is a lot of these mosques are not that rundown. They could have been fully renovated. In some cases, expansion work or the construction of a new mosque could have been carried out keeping the old one in place. Dhaka has long earned the infamy as a city nonchalant about its 400-year-old survival. The construction of mosques in Dhaka, in fact, spans over a 600-year stretch. By this account, brick-built mosques began coming up in the city as early as 15th century. Bangladesh was then ruled by the Sultans. The earliest mosque in Dhaka, Binat Bibi Mosque in Narinda, was constructed in 1454.  Different municipal and public works authorities have been involved in the periodic demolition of the city's archaeological sites since the 1990s. Every time a so-called worn-out structure was torn down, Dhaka had earned a fresh point for its insensitivity towards the importance of preserving its archaeological heritage.
Among its historical attractions, the city's Sultan and Mughal-era mosques enjoy a distinctive status. Many of them are part of the list of 93 heritage buildings and structures in the capital. The government's relevant department has located 10 mosques in Dhaka as archaeological sites. The lists were prepared by an expert committee in 2009. The authorities concerned have also identified 13 major archaeological sites. In spite of its 400-year history as an urban centre, the city doesn't have many heritage sites still in place. Exceptions comprise the Lalbagh Fort and the Mughal-era mosque in its compound. Whatever relics Dhaka has in the 21st century are residential and trade-related buildings. They rest are mosques, as well as a handful of temples. Since the Mughal era, Dhaka has witnessed a spurt in mosque constructions, with almost all its neighbourhoods having an architecturally magnificent mosque. 
No matter how modern-looking and functional the new-age mosques are, they will not enhance Dhaka's image as the 'city of mosques'. For it, one will have to enact the view of a city dotted with 15th-17th century domes and minarets. However, mosques with new designs will continue to come up. They might adopt modern or post-modern architecture. This is how building-designs evolve.
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