Shaheed Zia Shishu Park, the lone public amusement park for children in Dhaka, was declared closed for modernisation in the first week of January 2019.
The revamp was supposed to take only a year. But three years have passed and the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) is yet to begin doing the job, causing disappointment to city-dwellers.
DSCC officials said it will take more than three years to complete the works after the commencement.
According to DSCC sources, the park modernisation activities were supposed to start under the "Building Liberation Monument in Suhrawardy Udyan (3rd phase)" project that includes an underground parking space for 500 vehicles, walkway with waterfalls, underpasses, food stalls, a mosque, and sophisticated rides.
The Liberation War Affairs Ministry in collaboration with Dhaka South City Corporation and Public Works Department (PWD) under the Housing and Public Works Ministry has been implementing the project at an estimated cost of Tk265.44 crore.
The Liberation War Affairs Ministry provided the DSCC authorities with Tk78 crore for starting the construction. However, after a review the DSCC authorities informed the ministry that the budget estimation is not enough for the works undertaken.
After holding several meetings, the Liberation War Affairs Ministry finally requested the DSCC to prepare a new project proposal. The DSCC prepared the proposal with an estimated budget of TK650 crore and submitted it to the Local Government Engineering Department. The new project is now awaiting approval.
The DSCC engineers said they need to complete all the repair works within three years once the project gets approval.
DSCC Superintending Engineer (mechanical circle) Md Anisur Rahman told The Business Standard that the authorities had initiated the development works with the aim of a complete overhaul of the park.
"We want to make the park an ultramodern one in the country. And that is why features such as rides and games need to be replaced. Some 13 latest rides will be set up by a foreign construction company," he said, adding that the project is still awaiting approval.
Thousands of recreation-seeking people used to visit Shishu Park, especially during the holidays, with their children for momentary relief from the hectic city life.
Children of low- and middle-income families prefer to visit Shishu Park as it is the only amusement centre they can afford when compared to other private-run parks. But the closure of the park for three years has brought nothing but disappointment for them.
Kamal Uddin, a resident of Malibagh area, told TBS, "I used to go to the park with my son and daughter as the entry ticket and rides were affordable. And we were really pleased that the authorities took initiatives for its renovation. But now I am just disappointed over the lengthy process of the renovation."
Seven years for a revamp is unexpected. The government should do better for the city children, he added.
Nusrat Chowdhury from Bakshibazar area used to come to Shishu Park with her four-year-old daughter to escape the hustle and bustle of the most densely-populated city in the world.
"My daughter liked the park when she was four. Even now, she badgers me to go to the park but I can't. There are many private parks in the city which are costly and far away," Nusrat said.
According to a survey by the Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP), the areas under the two city corporations need to have at least 2,000 parks and 4,000 playgrounds with a minimum area of 1 acre for approximately 2.5 crore people. However, Dhaka has only 235 playgrounds, out of which only 42 are open for all. Only 6% of the capital's playgrounds provide access to girls.
History of the park
The Shishu Park was established in 1979 on 15 acres of land as the first children's amusement park in Bangladesh.
The park was later renamed 'Shaheed Zia Shishu Park' after Ziaur Rahman's assassination in 1981.
Established as a profit-making venture by Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, the government-owned tourism promotion agency in Bangladesh, it has been maintained by Dhaka City Corporation since 1983.
The 12 rides of the park included a wheel train, a merry-go-round and a number of wheel-based rides. The Bangladesh Air Force donated a fighter jet to the park in 1992.
It was the cheapest of all entertainment parks in Dhaka, charging Tk10 for entry and Tk10 for each ride only. It managed to draw about 6,000 visitors a day. During the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays the number of visitors climbed up to 350 thousand. The City Corporation earned about Tk200 million annually from the park.