Preserving Heritage Sites
Old Dhaka can be turned to a heritage site in five to ten years if a concerted effort can be made by the government and other stakeholders. To reach this goal a unity of vision of all the concerned parties is the most important requirement. With this objective in mind a two-week exhibition on Old Dhaka was held at the National Museum. June 22 was the last day of the exhibition, which was titled, "An Architectural Vision for the Urban Regeneration of Puran Dhaka through Mohalla (neighbourhoods) Revitalisation."
Urban Study Group (USG) organised the exhibition where about 50 panels of photographs sized four by four feet, digitally restored images of the mohallas, streetscapes and buildings of Puran Dhaka were displayed. The aim of the exhibition was to imprint visual images of the visitors, not only of those old buildings in restored form, but also of the neighbourhoods, partially restored into the minds of the viewers. The visitors were expected to be able to judge for themselves the visual impact, the restored buildings are going to have on the whole mohalla and subsequently the impact, the restored mohallas are going to have on the old town once the work is complete.
Team leader of USG Taimur Islam in his paper presentation said, "Old Dhaka is 10 percent of the total Dhaka. Many buildings with aesthetic features are being demolished everyday. Each square inch of this part is now being used for developing high rise buildings. There was a time when all the aesthetic buildings could be seen from the river. Each one of old buildings of Tanti Bazar, Shankhari Bazar and Farashganj are more beautiful than the next."
USG listed about 2300 buildings and numerous streets as heritage sites while the government has listed only 57 buildings and nine streets. USG urges all those buildings to be placed under the review of the board preparing the heritage list, otherwise nothing will be left to preserve in the next two or three years if the present demolishing process continues at the same pace.
While different foreign organisations like the US Embassy, GTZ, a German development corporation, Asian Development Bank and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) have come forward to work directly or indirectly for the restoration of some parts of Old Dhaka, DAP (Detailed Area Plan) has failed to realise the importance of its rich heritage and its preservation, Taimur Islam says regretfully. DAP has suggested that 25 per cent of the old buildings should be preserved.
USG suggests the incorporation of TDR (Transfer of Development Rights) policy in Building Construction Rules. According to this policy the property owner can sell his development right to any third party and that party can develop building somewhere else. The whole process has to be thoroughly monitored and regulated by a certain relevant government authority.
USG also held a reception for some of the community members of the heritage mohallas and owners of historic properties on the same day. Among other guests were professor Abdul Momin Chowdhury, The Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam, professor of History Dept of Dhaka University Dr Sharifuddin Ahmed, professor of Islamic History and Culture of Dhaka University Dr Habiba Khatun, Head of Governance of GTZ Alexander Jachnow, Director of Dhaka Kendra Azim Box and GS of Dhaka Chamber Abu Huraira who spoke at this reception.
The speakers said that this exhibition would help every one to clearly see the future development of Old Dhaka. Each restored structure will turn into a museum. If Old Dhaka is taken over by the developers, we will become a heritage-less nation. He, who can create a dream, can regenerate the nation and USG is playing the role of a dream maker for the whole nation.