The Financial Express

Preserving the heritage landmarks

Evaly and Fianancial Express Evaly and Fianancial Express
Preserving the heritage landmarks

The plan to demolish the iconic Teacher-Student Centre (TSC) at the University of Dhaka often called Dhaka University (DU) has enraged many for obvious reasons.  Though the pro-vice-chancellor of DU said that there was no such decision yet to demolish the landmark, he didn't deny that a new design was being developed. Media reports in last month made it clear that the government is going to rebuild the iconic TSC. Reports also mentioned that a multi-storied building would replace the current open-space structure to provide a modern facility.

The move to demolish and rebuild the TSC is part of a bigger plan that undermines Dhaka's heritage landmarks in the name of development.  For instance, the existing Kamalapur Railway Station will be demolished to make space for extending the metro rail (MRT-6) line up to Kamalapur from Motijheel.  The station is an iconic landmark of Dhaka due to its architectural beauty. It is difficult to comprehend why the landmark has to be demolished. 

There seems to be a spree of demolishing a number of iconic and heritage structures across the country. In Cumilla, the authorities have decided to demolish the historic town hall to construct a 'new and modern establishment'. Local people with respect for history and heritage are demanding preservation of the iconic century-old Birchandra Ganapathagar and Nagar Milonayton, popularly nown as town hall. Some people, however, are also in favour of demolition to build a so-called modern facility. It is clear that short-sighted and vested interests mainly campaign for demolition and new construction. Those who are soliciting a modern town hall probably think that only a multi-storey building with auditorium, VIP lounge, car parking and shopping facility could be a modern hall for community gathering. To them, there is no need to keep the open green space free; there is no need to preserve the century-old building. This phenomenon is not limited to Dhaka or Cumilla. It becomes a countrywide trend.  

One may also remember how the iconic fountain roundabout of Shahabagh in Dhaka was demolished to ease the traffic congestion. Though the beautiful heritage landmark of Dhaka vanished 15 years ago, the traffic situation changed a little. At that time, the authorities also levelled off all major roundabouts in Dhaka to ease the traffic movement.

There is no denying the need for building and constructing some modern and more spacious infrastructure and facilities to accommodate a greater number of people. At the same time, it is also desirable that the government will preserve the heritage landmarks and structures. With state of the art technology and advanced civil engineering and architectural technique, it is not impossible to keep these heritage landmarks while constructing and building new infrastructure.  What is necessary is a deep sense of the value of heritage. Be it TSC, Kamalapur Railway Station or Cumilla town hall, all the heritage landmarks need to be preserved with proper renovation.  The city of Kolkata in neighbouring India is an excellent example of preserving heritage landmarks. Buildings and infrastructures built more than 100 or even 150 years ago have been preserved nicely. Peservation doesn't stop modern construction.

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