Experts and noted citizens have demanded changes in the design of the Swadhinata Stambha project at the historic Suhrawardy Udyan and the continuation of the development work by preserving the environment.
"Even plucking a flower harms the environment. Keeping this in mind, the design of Suhrawardy Udyan should be revised with the best architects in the country," said Mozammel Haque Babu, editor-in-chief of Ekattor TV, at a workshop organised by the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs on Thursday.
"It does not seem there is any need for a 50-foot walkway in the park. It is necessary to increase the green area by reducing the number of installations," he opined.
The ministry organised the opinion exchange workshop, chaired by Secretary of Ministry of Liberation War Affairs Khaja Miah, to inform the botanists, environmentalists, architects, engineers and civil society representatives about the ongoing third phase of the Swadhinata Stambha project and learn their opinion about greening the park.
The participants in the workshop criticised the felling of trees in Suhrawardy Udyan.
Dr Md Ajmal Hossain Bhuiyan, professor of botany at Dhaka University, said, "This project seems like a modified version of a park. It should not be a recreation center. In the light of the spirit of the liberation war, the design needs to be modified keeping the environment in order. Suhrawardy Udyan works like the lungs of Dhaka city."
Jasim Uddin, professor of botany at Dhaka University, said, "We have no objection to the implementation of the project, but we have to look after the environment and be careful that there are not too many installations."
Harunur Rashid, professor of soil science at Dhaka University, said the installations related to the Liberation War were not properly showcased in the design of the project. The very purpose for which it is being developed is being undermined. In addition, other establishments including the restaurants next to the park should be set up underground.
Chief Scientific Officer of the National Herbarium Nasir Uddin said, "We have to think about increasing the number of trees in the park. We should not plant foreign trees there. Extinct species of native trees can be planted, but the project plans to plant foreign trees. The authority should review whether those trees are environmentally-friendly or not."
Responding to the participants' recommendations, Liberation War Affairs Minister AQM Mozammel Haque said the development work under the project is already going on in accordance with those suggestions.
The minister has assured that further development work would be done after reviewing all the demands regarding the matter.
Regarding felling the trees for implementing the project, he said, "According to the design of our project, a total of 100 trees were to be cut. So far around 60-80 trees have been cut down. A maximum of 10 more trees may need to be felled, but we have planned to plant many more trees here."
"Not just the history of nine months of the Liberation War, but the history of 23 years also unfolded here. We have fought against Pakistan for 23 years under the leadership of Bangabandhu. Suhrawardy Udyan is a witness to every incident. We want to keep all these achievements in Suhrawardy Udyan," he said.
Speaking as the chief guest at the workshop, the minister said, "We estimate that 10,000 people will come to Suhrawardy Udyan every day to see the Swadhinata Stambha project and learn about the history of the Liberation War from here."
"Initially we expect at least 5,000 visitors to come every day, out of which the ministry will bring 2,000. A place of international standard to preserve the memories of the Liberation War is being created through this project for this huge number of people,"
"When Ziaur Rahman was in power, he built a children's park where the Pakistanis surrendered. His intention was to wipe out all the signs of the surrender of the Muslims. We want to build a huge international standard garden so that we can educate our children properly."
"After the implementation of this huge project, one can easily spend five to six hours here. Food kiosks and toilet facilities are being constructed here. No food will be made here, so there is no chance of ruining the environment. A special authority will be created to maintain the Swadhinata Stambha project, under which we will also enrich Ramna Park," he added.