- Not even 70% of the work, scheduled to end in 10 months, has been completed in 5 years
- City corporation officials cannot say when the renovation will end
- The deadline has been extended four times and project cost has almost doubled
- DSCC has cancelled contract with the previous construction firm and will float a fresh tender
The renovation of Osmani Udyan has not been completed in five long years and not even city corporation officials are able to say when it is going to end.
Despite promising to complete the renovation of this historic park, located between the Secretariat and Nagar Bhaban, in just 10 months, the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) has been unable to complete even 70% of the work inaugurated back in January 2017.
No one can say when the renovation of the park, closed to the public for a long time, will be completed and when it will be reopened for city dwellers.
Rafiqul Alam, 50, is a permanent resident of the Gulistan area. He told The Business Standard, "When we were young, we used to play in this park with our friends. We used to hang out and eat seasonal fruits plucked from the trees in the park. But due to the negligence and mismanagement of the city corporation, the park was occupied by drug abusers and hawkers over time, turning it unusable for city dwellers. Finally, in the name of renovation, the authorities have had the park closed off to the public in the last five years."
Aman Ullah (55) has been running a textile business in Baitul Mukarram area for 25 years. He told TBS, "Although the environment was not favourable earlier, we could at least enter the park and sit under a tree for a while. But we have not been able to do that for several years. There is no other park in the vicinity of this area where people can take shelter from the scorching heat of summer."
According to sources, under the "Jal Sabujer Dhaka" project, the DSCC began the renovation of the 29-acre park in January 2017. The project was scheduled to be completed by June 2018. The renovation works included the construction of walkways, two lakes, boundary walls, food courts, a 3D underground museum, a library, a cafeteria, and sports infrastructure.
According to City Corporation sources, so far the deadline has been extended four times. From June 2018, the deadline was first extended to June 2019. It was later extended twice to June 2020 and June 2021, in that order. It was then again extended till June 2022.
Meanwhile, the costs of the renovation have kept escalating. The project cost, which initially was fixed at Tk58 crore, was later increased to Tk86 crore. The renovation expenditure has finally been fixed at over Tk100 crore after drainage, management and purification of water was added to the renovation scheme.
At present, the three gates of the park are shut, but the surrounding tin-fence has been broken at places. Drug abusers have started hanging out again in the park by entering it through the broken fence.
During a recent visit to the park, this correspondent saw only four construction workers working inside the park.
Construction worker Joynal Abedin told TBS, "The contractor owes me Tk16,000. Like me, the arrears of 15-20 labourers have been due for a long time. I still come to work to get the money; otherwise I would not have come."
The park is being renovated by The Builders Limited. On condition of anonymity, an official of the organisation told TBS that the renovation is not being completed as the city corporation is not releasing the money for the renovation work.
He said, "Our firm was appointed by former Mayor Saeed Khokon. After the new mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh took charge, a lot of bills of our contractor have got stuck, slowing down the pace of work. At present, not even 70% of the work has been completed."
It is not possible at all to complete the renovation and reopen the park to the public by June next year, he added.
The park is situated in Ward 20 of the DSCC. Farid Uddin Ahmed Ratan, councillor of Ward 20, told TBS, "We do not know when the renovation of the park will be completed."
Marina Nazneen, regional executive officer of the DSCC, said, "At present, the DSCC is preparing a fresh tender for the work, as the previous contractor could not finish the job on schedule. The city corporation cancelled the work contract with The Builders Limited in May."
A new construction firm will be appointed through a fresh tender. But it has not been decided yet as to when the work will be completed, she added.