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Dhaka Tribune

Outrage at JU as construction starts without master plan

  • Classes, examinations suspended since March 31
  • ‘Haphazard construction has transformed JU into nothing more than a concrete jungle’
Update : 09 Apr 2024, 08:00 AM

The Jahangirnagar University (JU) finds itself embroiled in controversy amidst the festive season of Eid-ul-Fitr and Pohela Boishakh, with construction activities beginning despite ongoing protests from teachers and students owing to a lack of a master plan for development.

With classes and examinations suspended since March 31, the campus is nearly deserted, with most students returning home for an extended vacation.

However, the administration's decision to start construction work on several buildings during this period has sparked outrage among protestors.

The protest began as construction work on enclosing the space for the construction of a six-storey building to transform the fine arts department into a faculty next to the extended building of Al Beruni Hall of the university went underway.

The expansion of various faculties, including Fine Arts, Mathematics and Physics, Biology, and Arts and Humanities, is underway, despite objections regarding the absence of proper planning.

Although the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics and the Faculty of Biology started construction a month ago, progress was halted due to student protests. Meanwhile, complications in site selection have delayed the start of construction for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, despite groundwork already being underway.

The proposed conversion of the Fine Arts department into a faculty, funded jointly by India and Bangladesh, has sparked concerns over environmental impact.

A total of Tk97 crore has been allocated for this project, with India funding Tk 50 million and the rest coming from Bangladesh.

The chosen site for the new faculty building is on the banks of the lake, which threatens the local ecosystem through the pollution of nearby lakes and the felling of approximately 200 trees.

Furthermore, constructing a multi-story building in a bird sanctuary risks disrupting migratory bird movements.

Moreover, the commencement of construction without adhering to a master plan has triggered criticism from concerned faculty members and students.

They argue that existing facilities, such as lecture theatres and department buildings, are sufficient. Additionally, the Faculty of Arts and Humanities has two buildings, which raises questions on the necessity of additional construction.

File image of the Faculty of Fine Art, Jahangirnagar University. Photo: Dhaka Tribune

What teachers say

Rayhan Rhine, professor at philosophy department, said: “Our repeated call for the implementation of the master plan has been consistently disregarded. The uncoordinated construction of buildings has now forced us to close the road in front of the new art building for classes. This situation is unacceptable.

“It will take approximately one year to develop the master plan. Therefore, we demand the immediate suspension of any new construction projects for the next year until the master plan is established. Construction should only resume thereafter,” he added.

Golam Rabbani, professor in theHistory Department, said that after the students went home on vacation, these destructive activities are a kind of criminal offense.

He also pointed out that the discussion of the master plan while continuing the construction of the building is hypocrisy. “Even at the cost of our lives, we will not allow even an unplanned building to destroy the life and nature of the university.”

Prof Lutful Elahi of the History Department said: "Construction of buildings without any kind of planning is a threat to the overall environment of the university in the near future."

He said the decision to proceed to construction comes after a clash between three halls.

Saying that the building is needed, Prof Lutful Elahi said: “We want it to be built as per plan.”

Construction on the campus ongoing despite students` protest at Jahangirnagar University. Photo: Dhaka Tribune

What project authorities say

Meanwhile, M.M. Maizuddin, project director and associate professor at the Fine Arts Department, said that based on the opinions of students and teachers, the committee prepared the master plan.

He said the construction work will not start after Eid. “We are observing the design. Site containment operations are underway.”

Engineer Nasir Uddin, director of the JU Further Development Project, said: "I will inform the administration along with the dean of the concerned faculty. Further action will be taken in consultation with them.”

What students say

Amartya Roy, president of a section of the students' union JU Sangsad, who has been agitating for the master plan, said: “A total of 6,500 students will be able to take classes together in 65 classrooms in the lecture theatres built under the Further Development Project. The construction is also very advanced. Now again due to the class crisis, the extended building is being constructed.”

Questioning the need for new buildings, he said: “What will happen with the master plan when all the buildings are finished? Only one thing - no building will be allowed to be constructed without a master plan.”

Alif Mahmud, president of a section of the student union, said: "The university administration always starts felling trees and buildings during the holidays without thinking about the environment."

Meanwhile, the Jahangirnagar Cultural Alliance has demanded to stop unplanned development work in the university without formulating a master plan.

On April 6 a written statement signed by Ahsan Labib, office secretary of JU Cultural Association, said, a huge budget of Tk1,445 crores was allocated for JU under Further Development Project.

“Since 2019, we've been advocating the preparation of a comprehensive master plan to guide development projects towards not only infrastructural enhancements but also overall improvement encompassing university life, nature, and biodiversity. Despite student agitation and our repeated demands, the university administration proceeded with development projects without a master plan,” it said.

The completion of two phases now reveals that the haphazard construction has transformed JU into nothing more than a concrete jungle, devoid of purpose or sustainability, the statement added.

What the VC says

In response to criticism, Vice-Chancellor Professor Mohammed Mostafa Feeroz defended the construction projects, citing the need to provide adequate facilities for the Fine Arts Department.

“The construction of this building has been planned by adopting different processes,” he added.

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