Open spaces of Dhaka

Ahmed Shatil Alam writes about some popular spots within Dhaka, which are gradually acting as replacements for the nearly extinct parks and other open urban spaces of the city

Photo-courtesy

SOURAV LASKAR

SOURAV LASKAR

There is an interest among Dhaka and Bangladesh’s citizens for photographs of Dhaka from the 60s, 70s and 80s. While the primary reason for this among the elderlies may be nostalgia, the adults and younger groups seem to revel at the green and scenic areas of the city some decades back, which are currently some of the most densely populated areas of Dhaka.
Among such interest also lies the subconscious want that Dhaka’s citizens feel for open spaces, often filled with greeneries where they can breathe fresh air and spend some time with their loved ones. Even during the early 90s, Dhaka’s citizens could visit the parks while its younger citizens could play in fields. But over the past few years, most parks have been invaded by criminal elements, while most playing fields have been taken over by public and private companies for real estate development and other purposes.
Under such circumstances, after their hectic professional lives, Dhaka’s citizens often look for areas within city limits where they can hang out with their friends or family members for a few hours.  Hence spots like Diabari near Uttara, Mirpur Beribandh and Hatirjheel are attracting a lot of people who are not locals. As the trend gains momentum, these spots are also driving local businesses like restaurants and other small entertainment facilities to open up shop in these spots.

Diabari

SOURAV LASKAR

SOURAV LASKAR

If anyone wants to witness the scenic beauty of the surrounding rivers of Dhaka and at the same time walk in an open space filled with greeneries, he or she may try out Diabari, which is between Uttara and Ashulia.
To get to the spot, one needs to follow the Sonargaon Janapath Road till it ends near extended Uttara. Besides the clean air, visitors can also enjoy airplanes land and take-off from nearby Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. People can also get a proper view of Turag River from the area as the place is basically located on the bank of Turag.
The popularity of Diabari rose soon after the government began to develop the area under the housing project, inform locals. While talking to New Age Xtra, Shamsuddin, a tea stall owner, says, ‘previously the area was like a small village. But a few years back, the government acquired the place for the extended Uttara project…since then, it is attracting many people who love to spend time in the area.’
‘This area is popular as it can be reached from Uttara and Mirpur Beribandh,’ he adds.
When New Age Xtra approached a group of young people at the place on Monday afternoon, they share that they often hang out at the spot. ‘All of us live in Banani…we do not have such large open spaces there where we can sit together and chat for a while,’ says Shourav Islam, a student of North South University, from among the group.
Meanwhile, his friend Tarannum Tazkia of the same university shares that at the place one can also ride boats. ‘In fact, an amusement park has opened up recently in the place,’ she says.
The amusement park called Fantasy Island is attracting families during the weekends. The boat rides can take people from Diabari to nearby spots of Turag river.
Due to the increasing frequency of people, some restaurants have opened near the Banyan tree of the spot.

Mirpur Beribandh

Diabari

Diabari

For the river lovers, another attractive place is Mirpur Beribadh area. This area is located between the Buddhijibi Graveyard point of Beribadh and Diabari. As the location is located on the bank of Turag River, people can behold the beauty of a calm river and the different products laden marine vessels that ply on it.
A theme park has been set up under private ownership at the spot called ‘Tamanna World Family Park’. Entry ticket to the park costs Taka 30. There are a number of different rides for the theme park visitors.
Tamal a student of class five came with his family to the area from Kalabagan on January 7. His father Jahidul Islam tells New Age Xtra, ‘Nandan Park and Fantasy Kingdom is very distant from Dhaka and besides these places are rather expensive. We heard about this park and came to try it out with our children.’
’In a way this place is better, as besides the rides, children can also enjoy the natural beauty of the river,’ he adds.
Similar to Diabari, many makeshift restaurants and roadside food carts are selling various and delicious items for the visitors in the area. Some visitors allege that some restaurants are charging exorbitant prices for some food items.
Locals also share that the spot is not safe after dark as mugging incidents have been reported from the area.

Road to Purbachal

Mirpur Beribadh. -SONY RAMANY

Mirpur Beribadh. -SONY RAMANY

For last few years, since the 300 feet road to Purbachal was developed by the government, many housing projects from the government and private quarters have sprouted up on both sides of the road. Nearly 12 kilometres from Mirpur, the road starts after Bashundhara residential area and ends near the Dhaka-Sylhet highway through Rupganj upazila of Narayanganj district.
Visitors to this road are usually people who love to go on long drives with their families and loved ones. The unique aspect of the road is the rural setting.
While visiting the road last Saturday, New Age Xtra found many people hanging out with many cars and motorcycles. As there are no public transports, the road cannot be accessed without private vehicles.
Mashiur Rahman is now a chatpati seller in the area although he was a farmer earlier. ‘I initiated this new business after seeing most of my fellow villagers open similar businesses while taking advantage of the visitors coming here,’ he says.
Nadim Uddin Mia, a tea stall owner of the small bazaar, informs that mostly the young people and the land owners of the housing projects come to this area. ‘People usually move to the Kanchan bridge through the 300 feet road and then take a U-turn to the bazaar and have food and take photos in this area,’ he says.
Sharing her experience with New Age Xtra, Tanni Sarker of Independent University of Bangladesh who was found in the spot with her friends informs, ‘We usually come here after classes. The spot is very good during the day. But maybe unsafe at night for visitors.’

Hatirjheel
Last but not the least is Hatirjheel, a 16 kilometer road project, right inside Dhaka with its waterbodies, greeneries, connecting bridges and walkways.
Recently, a government run bus service has been initiated in the area for visitors and commuters. After collecting tickets from any one of 10 points, people can ride the bus over the circular route in the area. The only problem of the area is lack of sanitation and food facilities, as both are very important for the visitors, says a visitor to the area on Sunday.

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