A limited company of powerful businessmen will soon take over Dhanmondi playground, earmarked in the city's master plan as a common field, to build there a mini stadium with exclusive sports facilities much to the chagrin of local residents.
Dhanmondi Club, now a limited company, has been named after Sheikh Jamal, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's slain brother, said sources.
Noted environmentalists denounced the move and said the playground is a public property, which will now serve the business interest of a group of affluent people.
During the military rule of Ershad, Public Works Department (PWD), the official custodian of the playground, designated Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) to maintain it.
The playground, however, has been under the control of Dhanmondi Club since 1962 without any legal authorisation of the authorities concerned.
PWD division-2 (Dhanmondi) executive engineer Abdul Kader Chowdhury said there is no scope for a public playground to be used for any commercial purposes.
“Dhanmondi is a residential area and I think no authorities will give approval to a plan for a stadium in a residential area,” he said.
Such a stadium will just destroy the residential character of the area with the onrush of people and vehicles, he said, adding: “A stadium in our country invariably means hundreds of shops and other commercial establishments.
DCC Mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka said, “A limited company does not have any mandate or scope to convert a playground the way it was planned.”
The company will have an eleven-member executive body and a governing body, which include Bashundhara Group chairman Shah Alam, Nitol Group Chairman Abdul Matlub Ahmed, and Rupayan Group chairman LA Mukul, said Kader, president of the limited company.
Partex Group Chairman MA Hashem's son Shawkat Aziz Rasel will be a key member of the executive committee.
“We have already obtained formal consent of the head of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Trust Sheikh Hasina for giving a name to the club,” said Kader.
Kader, former football in-charge of Abahani Club Limited and Muktijoddha Club, said it is a modern-day concept to turn a sports club into a limited company and we will follow the law while taking over the playground.”
The club members will be entitled to use the facilities but local football and cricket teams will also be able to use it as a practice ground, he said.
Immediately after the Eid vacation the renovation to the ground will begin, he said.
The club was formed in the pattern of Dhaka Club Limited, Gulshan Club Limited and Uttara Club Limited,” said Kader, “The affluent businessmen included in the governing body will provide with the fund.”
Prof Muzaffer Ahmad, a permanent Dhanmondi resident and president of environmentalist movement Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, said, “A certain quarter is exploiting the sentiment and name of the prime minister's family to extract business benefit.”
It is a common public property and should not be turned into a private zone, said Prof Serajul Islam Choudhury, an old resident of Dhanmondi and head of a high-level advisory committee of DCC on development of parks and playgrounds.
Dr Shahdeen Malik, a Supreme Court lawyer and a permanent resident of Dhanmondi, said it has to be resolved first on what legal ground a limited company will take over a public playground.
Even if the government allows it, he said, “It must be done through a public hearing.”
It will be a violation of the wetland and open spaces conservation act made by the past Awami League government, said Mubasshar Hussein, president of Institute of Architects Bangladesh (IAB).