Botanist and agricultural researcher MA Sobhan talks with New Age Staff Correspondent Sadiqur Rahman about rooftop gardening
Dhaka is among the most densely populated city having thousands of buildings for habitation. Residents can create well-planned garden in the rooftop, MA Sobhan says as he sees a huge opportunity to turn the rooftop gardens into earning sources for urban people.
Citing the Cuban experience, he says that Cuba has become the pioneer of urban horticulture, especially in rooftop and balcony gardening. At least 70 per cent fo the Cubans live in urban areas.
They not only can meet their daily demands of vegetables and fruits from their own gardens but also earn some extra by selling them.
‘Bangladesh’s weather is almost similar to that of Cuba. People here can make use of it by farming vegetables and fruits at their rooftop and balcony gardens throughout the year beside flower. This is a country of six seasons and varied crops can be grown in each season,’ Sobhan says.
Moreover, there are some vegetables like tomato, asparagus bean, okra, sour gourd, sweet gourd, bitter gourd, pointed gourd, pumpkin, cucumber, bottle gourd, and basil, pumpkin leaf, coriander, taro stem and stem amaranth which are now grown in all seasons.
The botanist says that vegetable and fruit farming on rooftop obviously can ensure nutritious foods for the growers.
At present, parents are worried about their children’s health that vegetables and fruits available in market may have been grown in pesticide-applied fields or coated with toxic preservative.
Sobhan believes that home-grown vegetables will be free of these unhealthy substances as organic farming is getting popular for the rooftop gardening.
He says, ‘I think, children of the urban families having rooftop gardens will be benefited in a different way. Besides taking vegetables and fruits, they can learn about the plants. They also have the opportunity to breathe very fresh air while playing near the plants’.
Sobhan has planted coconut, palm and banana trees on his rooftop. Although he knows that the trees in containers will be less productive, he planted them for his grandchildren so that they can learn about trees.
Sobhan says the green roof reduces temperature during summer and keeps the building warm in winter. It purifies the ambient by absorbing carbon dioxide as well as particulate matters and controls spread of diseases.
He thinks that the government should provide necessary policy directions with amendment of the national building policy to promote rooftop gardening in the city area.
He says that enthusiast people in Dhaka can collect samplings of vegetable and fruits from Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation outlets at Manik Mia Avenue, Gabtali, Siddique Bazar of Old Dhaka or other government-facilitated nurseries.
As a botanist, Sobhan served in Bangladesh Jute Research Institute. He is a hobbyist gardener. Wherever he got the chance, he did gardening.
Although he retired from BJRI, Sobhan is still well-known at BJRI at Manik Mia Avenue as he created a garden there with more than 2,500 plants.
Father of three daughters, Sobhan is currently living at Mirpur with his wife and two families of his daughters. ‘Although the other members are not gardeners like me, they enjoy the garden much,’ he says.
Sometimes when he cannot manage time to look after the garden he visits it on a regular basis as the habit makes him feel better.
Sobhan is currently serving as president of Beez Bistar Foundation, an organisation promoting conservation of local seeds as well as indigenous agricultural practices.
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