One fine morning, Ratul sat down in the school yard to watching “Johnny, Johnny Yes Papa”, a popular nursery rhyme on his tab. He was waiting for his mother to pick him up after school. Ratul goes to Eurokids School in Uttara Sector 3.
Ratul loves this rhyme because in it, Johnny’s mother wants her son to stop watching the TV and go play outside for a change. It is a sharp contrast to his own life, where his mother always insists that he stay at home.
Ratul lives in Uttara Sector 9. It is a model town, where middle and upper class families reside. And like most of the city, there are not many parks or playgrounds there.
Ratul says: “I pass my time watching the TV and playing video games because there are no playgrounds near my house.”
A survey revealed that there are just five parks and playgrounds in Uttara. Operating under the management of Rajdhani Unnayan Katripakkha (Rajuk) and Dhaka North City Corporation, these five fields are supposed to accommodate 500,000 people.
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The playground in Sector 14 could have met the needs of a lot of people, but it remains limited to members of Uttara Friends Club Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune
During the planning stages, every sector of Uttara Model Town was supposed to have a park and playground of their own. Today “there is no playground or park in sectors 1, 5, and 9,” says
Tabarak Hossain, treasurer to the Uttara Sector Five Welfare Association.
He added: “There are two parks, one is for mothers and their children, the other for the general public, but they are both too small. Both places were taken on lease from Rajuk because there was insufficient space.”
In 1986, Rajuk amended its designs for Uttara Model Town to make way for parks and playgrounds in sector 1, 5, and 9. In 1993, in response to a filed writ petition, the High Court ordered for a park and a playground to accompany every sector. However, it seems by that time, Rajuk had already allotted those plots to other parties.
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Adnan Fahad, a secondary-level student said to Dhaka Tribune: “We don’t go to the park in sector 3 because it is too far from my house… Sometimes we go to Diabari. It is an empty space where construction will begin under Uttara’s third phase of development.”
Just like Adnan, Rubaiyat, Jasmine and Molly all agree Diabari is a beautiful area. You can find white Kash flowers blooming there, boat rides operated by Shakti Water Garden along the canal and people from all over the city are often seen spending their free time with their families and loved ones. The Diabari area’s deeds have not been handed over yet.
Uttara residential area is made up of 10.7 sq km but given it lacks any amusement centres, some private organizations took it upon themselves to take care of the matter. Fantasy Island, a privately-owned park, is located beside Diabari.
“Only 10% of the total area is allocated for lakes, canals and open spaces in Uttara. A bare minimum of 20% is required if we are to improve the environment,” said Afser Uddin, a DNCC councilor.
He also said: “This lake is why some companies are investing in businesses that offer recreation activities. The allotments meant for parks in sectors 1, 5, 9, and 10 were reallocated for schools, clubs, and some were converted into plots. For instance, the field in sector three has been given to Friends Club. As a result, people cannot use that field. Another allotment was given to Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) to build a market.”
The playgrounds at Uttara sector 2, 3, 4, 7, and 14 are exclusively used by the children of plot owners.
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The playground at Uttara Sector 14 is one of the few open spaces available to the general public Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune
A solitary park at sector 7 has been well-maintained by Uttara Sector Seven Welfare Association, says Amzad, a shopkeeper.
It is nothing new that lakes across the city are heavily polluted, but they also serve as recreational areas. Uttara Lake starts from AbdullahpurBeribadh and extends all the way through sectors 9, 11, 7, 15, 3, and 5. Some parts of the lake under sectors 5 and 11 are currently being illegally occupied. It appears parts of the lake was filled with soil at some point.
As it stands, Rajuk took on “Uttara Lake Improvement and Beautification Project” in 2014, but little has been done since to improve or beautify the lake.
Nikunja Residential Area is another model town in Dhaka. Around 10,000 families live in the town close to the airport. But there is only one park between road number 5 and 8 in the entire model town.
But the Civil Aviation Authority Bangladesh (CAAB) office inside Nikunja has three lakes within its vast compound. Every evening, Nikunja residents proceed to take walks along the lakes.