Shahid Alim Uddin playground and Rasulbagh Children’s Park wear a new look after renovation under Jol-Sobujer Dhaka Project
It is about 4:30pm. People of different ages are walking on the circular walkway around Shahid Abdul Alim playground at Dhaka's Lalbagh area.
Some women are sitting on a bench beside the playground. Children of the nearest Orient Sporting Club are playing cricket in one corner.
And some others are chatting on the newly built ground that is widely known as Balur Math.
Although the playground has not been formally inaugurated yet, it has turned to a recreational place for the locals.
People come here for physical exercise and evening hangout.
But a year back, the scenario was just the opposite.
"I have been living in Lalbagh for the last 30 years. Once there was a vegetable market in the field. Some portion of the field was waterlogged. And the ground was unusable," said Shahjahan Chowdhury, a retired employee of the Department of Health.
"But now the situation has changed completely. I come here for a walk for an hour in the afternoon regularly," he added.
Parvez, a student of New Model Degree College, comes for coaching near the playground.
"After coaching, I sit here on the bench and enjoy the nature," he said.
The ground is covered with green grass and surrounded by wire net.
The playground will be open for all once the renovation is completed.
A 21-member committee comprising local people look after and manage the playground.
Hasibur Rahman Manik, councillor of Ward 26 who also chairs the committee, said, "Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Mohammad Sayeed Khokon will inaugurate the playground next month.
"It will sustain if the local community considers it as their own asset," he said.
There is a coffee shop, a library and a gym in a two-storey building beside the ground.
The amount collected from the establishments will be used for the maintenance of the project, said the councillor.
The playground was established under the Jol-Sobujer Dhaka Project, a project taken to modernise 31 parks and playgrounds by the Dhaka South City Corporation.
According to Dhaka South authority sources, the project started in July 2016 aiming to build a series of infrastructure in the parks and playgrounds to offer healthy civic amenities to the residents, particularly children and youths.
The project made a good start. About 70 architects prepared the draft designs to adorn the 19 parks and 12 playgrounds with lush greeneries and to remove the boundary walls.
The deadline of the project was June 2018, later, it was extended till June 2019 because of bad weather.
The parks under the project are Rasulbagh Shishu Park, Gulistan Park (Shaheed Matiur Rahman), Motijheel Park, Mayor Mohammad Sayeed Khokon Park (Sharafatganj park), Jatrabari Chowrasta Park, Sirajuddoula Park, Sikkatuly Park, Malitola Park and Bangshal Park.
The playgrounds under the project are Kalabagan playground, Basabo playground, Sadeque Hossain Khoka playground, Delowar Hossain playground, Amligola playground, Shahid Nagar mini-stadium, Balurghat playground, Shahid Abdul Alim playground, Samsabad playground, Golapbagh playground and Bangladesh Maath.
"The estimated cost of the project is Tk250 crore," said Rafiq Azam, the chief architect of the project.
"Of all, the Alim Uddin playground is ready for inauguration. The cost of Alim Uddin and Rasulbagh parks has been estimated at over Tk7 crore," he added.
"The walking space surrounding the Alim Uddin playground is a water reservoir which has the capacity to contain 5 lakh tonnes of water – to be used for washroom and mosque through recycling process," he said.
Different varieties of trees are there so that people can feel the distinctive features of all six seasons simply by looking at the change of flowers, said a project official.
Each park or playground contains civic amenities such as garbage management facility, water pump and public toilet.
There are seating arrangements as well for hawkers in some designated spots, he added.
The management will install free Wi-fi and closed circuit television cameras in the parks and playgrounds.
Rasulbagh Shishu Park
Rahat, Minhaz, Tahsin and a few other children were seen playing cricket in the park in Lalbagh area last Monday.
"The park should be opened as soon as possible. We cannot come and play as per our wish now," said Rahat, a college student.
"It was a graveyard in Pakistan period. In the 1980s, when Ershad was the president, the park was formally established. After a long time, the present government has taken an initiative to reconstruct it," said Md Ali, a 70-year-old man of the area.
Jobaer, Shahidul and Saiful used to play in the field regularly a year back.
They are excited they will be playing in the field again soon.
"This recreational place had been a haven for drug addicts in the evening. But the situation has changed after the project started," said Billal, a local resident.