Park, coffee cart or biryani shop?

In the Bangshal of old Dhaka stands a triangle-shaped park. It once offered citizens an avenue to stroll in the morning and evening, or spend their leisure time surrounded by greenery.

This park, which dates from pre-independence times, had a library, 10 to 12 benches to sit on and a small area where children played.

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But due to the apathy of the authorities concerned, this park quickly lost its prestige.

The size of the park gradually shrank, as land grabbing continued unabated, while the remaining parts were too dilapidated to visit.

To save what was left of the park, Dhaka’s first elected mayor, Mohammad Hanif, renovated it and installed a water fountain and two dove sculptures as a symbol of peace.

To continue his father’s legacy, former South Dhaka Mayor Sayeed Khokon renovated the park and opened it to the public in 2020.

New walkways, fresh grass, extended seating arrangements, and lights were installed at the location as part of this project, and the water fountain was made functional.

Soon after, the park was leased to the Chairman of Bangshal Thana Bangabandhu Parishad, Haji Ahsan Ullah. Under the lease agreement, Ahsan and his company were supposed to run a cafe, on condition that they sell coffee from a wheeled cart and tend to the park.

Building a permanent structure to sell anything other than coffee was not permitted under this arrangement.

But during a recent visit to Bangshal Park, this correspondent saw that a permanent steel structure had been built there, taking up at least a third of the space. There are lines of chairs and tables that center it, but rather than coffee what is served is biryani.

Even the water fountain was closed to facilitate the biryani shop. There are a few sinks, a freezer and rows of plastic chairs and tables inside the Haji Ebadullah Biryani house, owned by a certain Liton Baburchi.

Biryani is also served on benches on three sides of the park.

Contacted, Liton Baburchi said he rented the place to Ahsan Ullah.

Locals said they could no longer walk or sit in peace in the park as the place is still buzzing with customers from the biryani shop. Also, the size of the already small park has drastically shrunk because of the makeshift restaurant, they added.

Abdul Hai, a resident of Mokimbazar, Bangshal, said this park is bigger.

“There used to be a library here. People came here to read books, walk around and play. But the park gradually died.”

“When the park was renovated in 2020, or what was left of it, locals thought they would finally find a place to spend peaceful leisure. But the biryani shop threatened the serenity of the park,” he said. -he adds.

Park tenant Haji Ahsan Ullah said they were running the store “legally”.

He said, “We run a biryani shop next to the cafe. DSCC officers come for regular inspections. There is no problem.

Local Councilor (Ward-35) Abu Saeed said, “The park was designed for walking, but now it’s a place of business. People can’t sit and walk. I filed a verbal complaint about this to the municipality. I will send a written complaint soon.”

DSCC property manager Russell Sabrin said there was no possibility of running a biryani venue after getting permission for a coffee cart.

“We will cancel our agreement if the terms of the lease are breached,” he added.