“Where do you go for a breath of fresh air in Dhanmondi?”
The Dhaka Tribune asked a number of people who reside in Dhanmondi and adjacent areas – Kalabagan, Panthapath and Lalmatia – this question.
Dhanmondi Lake – a reclaimed waterbody surrounded by a well-swept walkway with scenic beauty and many other facilities – topped the list of answers, which also listed Dhanmondi Road 4 Park, Abahani Field, Chhayanaut, Sheikh Russel Shishutosh Angan, Kalabagan Lake Circus Park, Bangabandhu Museum, Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Field in it.
Dhanmondi Lake is not only a popular among residents of Dhanmondi and neighbouring areas. The serene reflection of the trees arched, like curious onlookers, over the still waters of the emerald lake draw visitors from halfway across the city every day.
[caption id="attachment_235997" align="aligncenter" width="800"]
Paddle boats are a popular activity on the lake Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune
Tulip Ahmed, a woman living nearby, comes for a walk every day with her three-year-old son and six-year-old nephew.
“The children love to play here, and I enjoy it. But the hawkers get on my nerves sometimes. I cannot help but worry that if I am distracted, someone could snatch the children,” Tulip said.
Tulip feels it would be better if the children had more rides or space to themselves for playing. The playgrounds by the lake still feature rusty or broken see-saws and other rides.
Her concern about unruly hawkers is shared by many others.
Tolmol Ahmed, another local resident, said the hawkers often crowd the walkways and disturb elderly pedestrians like his mother.
In addition, many have expressed their discomfort with public display of affection by the lake.
The lake has three key spots - Rabindra Sarobar, Medinova point, Russell Square - where people flock to sit and relax with friends or family.
Dhanmondi was developed as a residential area in 1956. Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha’s (Rajuk) development plan allocated about 16% of the total area of Dhanmondi for the lake.
According to a report by Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust (WBB Trust) titled “Parks and playgrounds in Dhaka: Taking stock and moving forward,” parks near Dhanmondi Lake have facilities like open space with grass and/or trees, walkways and playgrounds for children.
“Activities at Dhanmondi Lake were mostly personal and social (41%), followed by commercial (20%), walking and biking (16%), and work-oriented activities excluding vendors (16%),” the report says.
The report also says that only 6% of activities involved athletics. In the morning, the share of personal and social activities was 34% followed by work-oriented activities (22%), commercial (19%), and walking and biking (18%). Athletics and sports plummeted to 8%.
A collection of popular alternatives
Maliha Tabassum, a seventh grader from Junior Laboratory High School, said: “I prefer staying at home because Dhanmondi Lake is often overcrowded. But I started going to Sultana Kamal Women Sports Complex every afternoon for my swimming classes.”
Several others residents also expressed that they prefer going to Sheikh Kamal Krira Complex, more popularly known as Abahani Field, as well as Sheikh Russel Shishutosh Angan, Kalabagan Lake Circus Park and Kalabagan Field.
[caption id="attachment_235998" align="aligncenter" width="800"]
All the fields in Dhanmondi area are often occupied by professional sports players, though the authorities say locals are always welcome Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune
Rahat Khan Johan, another resident, said: “My five-year-old child wants to go cycling at Abahani Field in the afternoon on the weekends. But unfortunately I cannot let her play there because she could get hurt by a stray ball from the club players. Cricketers and footballers are always practicing there, and it is not uncommon for children to get hurt accidentally.
Mohammad Samad Ali takes his six-year-old son to the Kalabagan Field on Fridays.
He however, complained that the park, which is basically a playground for children, is a hub of smokers and drug abusers nowadays which puts the visitors ill at ease. He also stressed the children’s rides at the park require maintenance and repair.
Abahani Plauyground, Sheikh Jamal Dhanmoni Club Field, and Kalabagan Field, all three are mostly occupied by club practices. Club authorities also rent out the grounds for different tournaments.
Abahani stays occupied four days a week due to the club players’ training and other activities.
Similarly, the Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club Field remains occupied by the club players for at least five days a week.
Though the locals said Kalabagan playground also stays occupied most of the time, Kalabagan Krira Chakra’s Organizing Secretary Riazul Haq Babu said: “We use the ground for training of the club members but we always welcome the residents. Locals can always visit the playground with their kids.”
However, the field belongs to the Public Works Department, under the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, which says it is open to all children and residents since it is not to be used for commercial purposes.
Also Read - No playgrounds for Old Dhaka
Who will save the parks of Dhaka?
The noxious airs of Dhaka parks