Open, green spaces, important for social and cultural development of urban citizens, keep shrinking. But all the authorities concerned seem to have no regard for the well-being of people. Illegal parking of pickup vans has appropriated a park at Tanti Bazar in the capital. This had been the only park before it was grabbed for parking eight months ago. Van drivers say that they are left with no option but to use the park as their garage. Many others alleged that the municipal councillor and the police illegally use park in exchange for money. The park at Tanti Bazar is the responsibility of the Dhaka South City Corporation. In the name of gentrifying the park, the authorities have brought down sculptures in the west of the park that residents have appreciated for years and restricted public access to the park. It is worrying that instead of maintaining the park, they use the space to extort money from van drivers. The city corporation must judiciously investigate the allegation of extortion, allocate place for parking and ensure that renovation of the park is not done without public consultation.
The illegal encroachment of public parks and children’s playground has become common. In March, New Age reported that Awami Juba League erected a permanent structure occupying a large of corner of the Siddheweri Boys’ School playground. Not only the influential quarters occupy park areas, in many cases, city authorities have set up structures, compromising the main recreational goal of public spaces. The Nayaola Children’s Park is used as a pump house of Dhaka WASA and a park at Karwan Bazar beside DNCC zone-5 office is used as a garbage truck depot. A similar situation prevails in other cities. The Chittagong District Sports Association cricket players, coaches and members of sports club complained about the scarcity of practice field in Chittagong. Denying players’ access to open spaces, authorities have allowed playgrounds to be used for commercial purposes there. Referring to the shrinking open public places in cities, green activists allege that there is a general lack of coordination between various authorities. The tussle over management of open spaces and the contradictory statements from the authorities concerned on the number of parks in Dhaka are testament to the negligence and lack of coordination.
While open, green spaces are considered the life line of urban citizens, metropolitan cities are alarmingly losing their parks, playgrounds and other public spaces to people with political and economic leverage or simply because of the negligence and corruption of city officials. It is high time that the government took immediate measures to end the illegal occupation of public spaces. In this particular case of Tanti Bazar park, the city authorities must investigate the use of public space for illegal parking and arrange for parking facility for pickup vans and immediately open the park to general public.
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