It was six in the morning. The city was slowly waking up from deep slumber. But the Bahadur Shah Park was already buzzing with morning walkers, joggers and body builders of different ages and sections of the area.
"I walk here twice a day -- in the morning and in the evening -- as there is no park in the adjacent areas," said Nitya Gopal Ghosh, a diabetic patient and a gold trader at Lakkhi Bazar
According to regular walkers every day at least 5,000 people come to this small park in the morning and in the evening from Sadarghat and adjacent areas like Sutrapur, Farashganj, Tantibazar, Shankhari Bazar, Lakkhi Bazar, Bangla Bazar, Rokonpur, Patla Khan Lane and Dal Potti.
Popularly known as Victoria Park, it has many trees, gardens, a fountain and a memorial in the park.
"It is great to have a park like this in a place like Sadarghat. It is like a breathing point in the area," said Ghosh.
But unplanned parking of buses and cars surrounding the park has turned its adjacent spots into a virtual bus depot. According to the bus drivers this is the last stoppage of many city service buses.
Students and schoolchildren from several educational institutes in the area including St Francis School, St Gregory's School, Kobi Nazrul Islam College, Jagannath University and Suhrawardy College cross the road risking lives.
On Monday noon from 11:40 am to 12:40 pm this correspondent saw no traffic police in the four roundabouts surrounding the park. During the period the adjacent roads were almost choked with city service buses, rickshaws and parked private cars.
Talking to the drivers and a 'parking supervisor' called Aziz, it was known that there are several so-called supervisors in the bus stand area appointed by different bus owners.
"Where do I go? There is no place around to park my vehicle. Just see that buses keep going round the park because they don't have place to park and if they stop anywhere they risk a case by a sergeant. As it is our last stoppage we pick a large number of passengers here who come to the colleges, Jagannath University and to the Judge Court in the area," said Rezaul Matbor, a bus driver.
Murad, a tea stall owner near the park said that in the last five months he saw just one traffic police at one of the four roundabouts surrounding the park.
Lack of zebra crossings in the surrounding roads of the park is another problem for senior citizens who come for walking.
"I always feel fear when I cross the road after the walk. The buses, cars and rickshaws seem to come rushing towards me from all directions. Had there been a zebra crossing I would have felt safer," said an elderly woman with diabetes and a regular walker at the park.
Asked about the absence of traffic police Saidur Rahman, DC Traffic (South), said there is a shortage of traffic police and sometimes the posted ones are moved to other places for VIP duties.
"These buses have permission to use the place as a bus stand. They are given route permits like Mirpur to Sadarghat or Kuril to Sadarghat. This is their last stoppage. They are supposed to take in and drop passengers and move away quickly. But as they stay there for one or two more minutes it creates jams as because there are lots of buses," said Rahman.
"The main problem is that there is no terminal for city service buses. And particularly that area badly needs of a terminal or a bus depot," he added.
Another problem for walkers is bad smell emanating from two big garbage containers placed just beside the park.
However, with the presence of police from 8am to 8pm the park is now quite free from crimes like mugging.
"The police have been posted at the park to deal with the restive students of nearby college and university. But at the same time their presence has made the park safe for the walkers. Sometimes I walk in the park till 12 at night," said Sohrab, an elderly resident of the area.
The park has bathroom facility, which is especially very helpful for workingwomen of the area.
Students from adjacent schools also come to the park to study before exams and admission tests or just to sit for a while.
Besides, during major festive occasions like Pahela Baishakh, Eid, Durga Puja the park arranges special programmes attended by hundreds of people from the nearby areas.
Asked about the presence of the garbage containers, DCC's Conservancy Officer Abdul Alim, said, "We did not find any feasible place to move the containers that's why we had to put them there. Several times we tried but as there are many schools and colleges in the area we could not find a suitable place for it."
About the bad smell he said, "The containers are cleared every night so it is not supposed to be odourous.”