Shahid Alim Uddin playground at Dhakeswari in Old Dhaka has been modernised at a cost of more than Tk8 crore, but this modernisation means nothing to children and youngsters as they cannot play there.
Prior to the development by the Dhaka South City Corporation, children and youngsters had the opportunity to play there although there were huts, shops and piles of garbage around the field.
After modernisation, children and youngsters are not allowed there. They are not allowed to practice on the net. Now, the main playground remains closed most of the time.
The cricket academy is adjacent to the field and a certain number of teenagers and youths use it, locals have alleged.
Under the Jol-Sobujer Dhaka Project of the corporation, the development work of the field started in August 2017. After completion, it was opened to the public on 16 November, 2019.
The modernised playground on 75 kathas of land is said to be 'world class' but local children and youngsters are deprived of its services.
In a recent visit to the playground, the correspondent saw the main playground is fenced by high iron nets. The grass inside the field is knee-high due to lack of proper maintenance. The entrance was locked and local children were not allowed to play there.
There are several seating arrangements along the outer walkway. In the morning and evening, the locals can walk on the walkway next to the field.
There is practice space for playing football and net cricket a 250 meter walkway for walking, modern washrooms, cafeteria, library, water filter, CCTV camera, dustbin, fruit tree and arrangements for Eid prayers. But those are not maintained regularly.
There is also a coffee shop, a library, a gym and an open garden of flowers in a two-storey building beside the ground.
The amount collected from the establishments was supposed to be used for the maintenance of the project but it is not implemented accordingly, locals alleged.
A reservoir with a capacity of 5 lakh tonnes of water has been constructed under the walkway of the park. There is also a lighting system for playing at night. But these are slowly becoming useless thanks to lack of use and maintenance.
The playground remains unused despite having so many facilities. Gym equipment and the small children's corner adjacent to the mosque are not used.
Not the general public, people close to the local councilor only get a chance to play on the field, several local youngsters complained.
Apan Saha, who came to the field for net practice, told TBS that the field is not always open. Even if it is open, they do not get a chance to play except for certain people. Although the field is mainly for children, there is no opportunity for children to play.
Ali Anas Hridoy, a youngster, alleged there is no opportunity for anyone other than the councillor's people to play in this playground.
"The caretaker of the playground demanded Tk25,000 for playing a football match here for two hours at night and Tk20,000 for playing during the day," he said.
Ramiz Uddin, who was resting on the side of the playground, told TBS, "We have been demanding for a long time to vacate the field filled with piles of garbage. Now it is modernised but there is no opportunity for children to play. Prior to that children had the opportunity to play, even if it was on a small scale."
Meanwhile, the project to modernise the fields has been awarded the "Eurasian Prize 2020" based in Russia. "Shahid Alim Uddin playground" won the award as one of the best projects in the "Urban Planning" category. The prize giving ceremony will be held on 2 October in Yekaterinburg, Russia.
Rafiq Azam, chief architect of the project, told TBS, "I have tried to turn the garbage dump into a suitable playground for the locals. I wanted to make a place for the children where there would be no walls for sports. So this playground has been made green and suitable for everyone's use."
When asked about depriving children from using the field and misuse of its resources, the architect said it is a shame for everyone if it is not used and maintained properly. It was the responsibility of the city corporation.
Hasibur Rahman Manik, councillor of Ward 26, told TBS that the field has been closed for the last one month due to Covid-19. Earlier, everyone used to play sports regularly.
If the playground was not used regularly and properly, it would not be possible to win international awards, he added.
Asked how reasonable it is to keep the ground closed when exercise is a must to boost body immunity during the Covd-19 pandemic, he said, "There are open walking areas around the main playground, where people walk every morning and afternoon. There are small places next to it where children and youngsters can play regularly. None is prevented here."
Under the project, 30 more playgrounds and parks are being developed in the city, said the Dhaka South City Corporation officials.