The felling of trees for the development plan recently led to a massive public outcry
The government is considering a redesign of the Suhrawardy Udyan development plan in order to preserve more of the historic trees in the area.
Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque on Tuesday said:00 "The cutting of trees at Suhrawardy Udyan will be stopped for the time being. The design may also be changed if necessary. I will personally inspect and make the next decision after talking to environmentalists. A committee has been formed in this regard.”
The minister made the remarks during an emergency press conference at the Liberation War Affairs Ministry conference room.
He also said: "So far, 50 trees have been cut down. Another 50 trees may be cut down. However, I have decided not to cut down any trees for the time being. We will be conducting tests, on-the-spot inspections and talking to experts.
“If the trees were cut down just to build the walkway, then that incident is tragic. If this happens, action will be taken against the person who suggested it. I did not visit the place myself, which I should have done. I am sorry about that. I did not think such a situation would arise. Hopefully, after this press conference, the misunderstanding about cutting down trees will end,” he added.
The felling of the trees at the historic Suhrawardy Udyan that recently created massive outrage is not precisely for restoring the monuments of the Liberation War, but to build some structures that will serve the public interest.
After observing the continuous protests against the project by environmental activists, students and many citizens, the High Court asked to stop the felling of trees and the emergency press conference was arranged.
HC asks to halt tree felling
The High Court has asked Attorney General (AG) AM Amin Uddin to take necessary action to stop the felling of trees at the historic Suhrawardy Udyan in Dhaka till May 20.
The court also scheduled May 20 for the hearing of a contempt of court petition filed against the government for clearing trees and erecting a restaurant at Suhrawardy Udyan, notwithstanding the High Court's 2009 ruling to prevent tree felling.
The bench headed by Justice Mamnoon Rahman and Justice Khandaker Diliruzzaman passed the order verbally on Tuesday after lawyer Manzill Murshid placed the petition and arguments before it.
Manzill Murshid had asked for the hearing on the contempt of court petition to be heard on May 17, but AG Amin Uddin requested more time to prepare arguments.
The AG also said another writ petition on the same matter was pending with a different High Court bench, and he suggested that both petitions be heard at the same time.
On Sunday, Supreme Court lawyers Mahbubul Islam and Ripan Barai filed the contempt of court petition, asking the court to order three government officials to stop the felling trees for the opening of a restaurant at Suhrawardy Udyan.
What is in the present plan?
Officials said the government plans to build seven food courts, a flower market, a children’s park, public toilets, and an underground parking lot at an estimated cost of Tk265.44 crore in the third phase of the development work, to draw more visitors and ensure amenities for them.
Suhrawardy Udyan, located near the Dhaka University campus and the High Court, is a gathering place for citizens to breathe and relax in overcrowded Dhaka. It is also often used by political parties to organize massive rallies, and the south side of the ground is used by Bangla Academy to hold its annual book fair.
The third phase of the project, titled “Swadhinata Stambha Construction Project in Dhaka,” began in January 2018.
“Bureaucrats added the idea of setting up restaurants and adding commercial components to the project without consulting experts,” Iqbal Habib, a renowned architect and joint secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, told Dhaka Tribune.
Also read- Inside the Suhrawardy Udyan redesign
“These commercial components were not included in the basic plan that was shared with us,” he added.
Besides these commercial structures, the project also includes the March 7 Speech Memorial, December 16 Surrender Memorial and Indira Mancha Memorial as main features. These structures will be built on the existing open spaces of the park and do not require the felling of trees.
The Liberation War Affairs Ministry, the Department of Public Works, and the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) are implementing the third phase of the project.
The Department of Architecture has designed all the structures to be built at Suhrawardy Udyan, previously known as Ramna Racecourse Maidan and Ramna Gymkhana.
As per the plan, the commercial structures will be leased out to contractors to generate revenue. There are allegations that many influential people have already started lobbying to lease the spaces.