Burer Kagoj – Bhorer Kagoj

Tensions have arisen between the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) and the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) over various projects and installations on the banks of the Buriganga. The two organizations want to do almost the same kind of development work on the banks of the river. Earlier, BIWTA withdrew from several proposed projects in the face of objections from the city corporation. He also cut the walkway construction project. However, the DSCC has recently taken a turn for the worse by asking to remove some parts and other installations of Sadarghat Launch Terminal from in front of Ahsan Manzil, Lalkuthi and Ruplal House. The BIWTA thinks that this will lead to a crisis in the transport of passengers and goods. And the city corporation says there is no alternative to preserving the heritage.

On September 29, Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Fazle Nur Taposh visited Lalkuthi Bhaban in Old Dhaka. The next day two letters were given to BIWTA. The letter, signed by Additional Secretary Farid Ahmed, requested that the Sadarghat terminal and other facilities be removed from the front of Lalkuthi, Ruplal House and Ahsan Manzil ‘immediately’. Earlier, on September 30 last year, Fazle Nur Taposh, the mayor of the south, visited the Lalkuthi building and said that some parts of the Sadarghat terminal would be removed.

According to the letter, Northbrook Hall (Lalkuthi), a heritage building on the banks of the river Buriganga, was built in 182-189 following the Mughal style of construction and strategy. Poet Rabindranath Tagore was given a reception by the Dhaka Municipality on 8 February 1982 in this building. At one time the beauty of this building could be seen from the river. But as a result of the construction of the installation, it is no longer seen. Its environment is being ruined due to the surrounding roads, floating hawkers, porters and freight transport. A project has been taken to renovate Lalkuthi, it said, adding that illegal structures around the building will be evicted soon. The mayor felt the need to remove other installations, including the BIWTA terminal, to make the building visible from the river. So they should be transferred or removed immediately. In another letter, a request was made to remove the structures in front of Ruplal House No. 11 Farashganj and Ahsan Manzil west of Sadarghat.

BIWTA has several ghats, pontoons, jetties, restrooms, etc. in the areas where the city corporation is asking to remove the installations from the front. They are also important business areas of old Dhaka. Going to the spot, it was seen that on the opposite side of Ahsan Manzil, on the bank of Buriganga, there is a memorial bathing house, a mosque and a few ferries without a benevolent government. There are various businesses including almond wholesale fruit warehouses in the whole area. There are BIWTA wharves where waiting launches are tied up. There is also an RCC jetty. Which is locally known as SP Ghat. To make Ahsan Manzil visible from the river, many of these things have to be removed.

Lalkuthi Bhaban is located on the north-east side of the main building of Sadarghat Launch Terminal. The Buriganga in front of Lalkuthi has an extended section of the Sadarghat terminal. There is BIWTA parking yard, 3 ticket counters, passenger lounge, a few pontoons, gangway, spad etc. Passenger launches on Chandpur, Ilisha, Barisal (day-service) and Shariatpur routes leave here. Besides, BIWTC’s Khulna-bound steamer also leaves from Lalkuthi Ghat. On the other hand, wholesale warehouses of various products including onion, ginger and garlic have been seen in the vicinity of Lalkuthi building. The location of Ruplal House is a little to the east of Shyambazar. Although there are no BIWTA installations, there are a few freight and passenger ferries. Numerous trucks, vans, rickshaws, wheelbarrows and crowds of buyers and sellers make it difficult to find this historic building.

According to DSCC sources, the city corporation has undertaken a detailed project to preserve the beauty, history and heritage of these three installations in the city. Illegal installations in its vicinity will be evicted soon. There will be a system of recreation for the people by developing the land and infrastructure.

On the other hand, BIWTA undertook several similar projects at different times along the river. In 2016, the company began implementing the second phase of the Wakaway construction project to protect the banks of the Buriganga, Turag, Shitalakshya and Balur around Dhaka. After evicting the occupants, the company also started road construction there. However, the DSCC objected that road construction was not the work of BIWTA. In this, BIWTAK has to bring amendments in some places of the project. At the same time, they had to move from Sadarghat to Babubazar by designing a project for the development of 1 km area. The proposed project sought construction of an amphitheater on the river bank, construction of sitting benches, creation of a scenic environment in front of Ahsan Ghat without bathing ghats, and various developments including greening.

BIWTA also designed a project in the char area of ​​Kamrangi to beautify the original channel of Buriganga. However, due to the objections of some environmental organizations and the DSCC, it did not go ahead. As a result, the company lost interest in rescuing the original Buriganga channel. The Dhaka district administration and BIWTA were seen carrying out an eviction drive for just a few hours on June 15 in the name of evicting 64 illegal establishments of the original channel. Then 10 small installations were evicted from Loharpul area of ​​Kamrangirchar to Battery Ghat. Then the representatives of Dhaka South City Corporation set up the boundary pillar there. Eviction activities were not seen after that. The DSCC has also objected to the construction of BIWTA ecopark on the evicted land in Shampur.

In this context, Dhaka South City Corporation Chief Executive Officer Farid Ahmed said, urban management is a global issue. BIWTA is only looking at passenger and freight crossings. But it is the responsibility of the city corporation to create and coordinate other facilities. If 22 service providers in the capital think of their own issues in isolation, it will not happen. This has been made clear in the circular issued by the Prime Minister’s Office in 2016. “We can’t build if we want installations like Ruplal House, Northbrook Hall (Lalkuthi), Ahsan Manzil,” he said. These have a lot of historical significance. It is our legal duty to display and preserve these 200-year-old monuments to domestic and foreign tourists. Asked if this would adversely affect passenger and freight services, he said, “We did not ask to remove the entire terminal.” I have asked to make arrangements so that the historical places can be seen clearly from the river at an angle of 45 degrees. For this reason, the number of installations to be removed, the financial and other issues are being studied. The chief planner will report on the matter within 2 weeks. He also said that alternatives are being considered for the welfare of the sailors.

On the other hand, BIWT Chairman Commodore Golam Sadeq said, “All our facilities have been set up mainly for the convenience of passenger transport and loading and unloading of goods.” BIWTA is the custodian of the river port declared by law. As a result, it is our responsibility to create these facilities. There are also instructions of the high court in this regard. Now, if they are suddenly removed, there will be a crisis in passenger crossings and trade. He said that this waterway is one of the means of transportation for the people of the south. Due to that, every Eid and festival holiday in Sadarghat is difficult to cope with the pressure of passengers. However, the expansion of the terminal area has made travel much easier than before. Appreciating the City Corporation’s initiative in preserving the heritage, the BIWT chairman said, “If we work in any way, it will be easier to implement the two objectives – now we have to think about it.” He said a committee headed by a Dhaka river port official has been formed for this. They will talk to the DSCC and resolve the issues.


Source: Bhorer Kagoj by www.bhorerkagoj.com.

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