Court halts felling of trees at Suhrawardy Udyan

12 May 2021

The High Court has suspended the cutting of trees at the Suhrawardy Udyan, a historic park in Dhaka.
"Our order is that the hearing will come before this court on May 20," said Justice Mamnoon Rahman, senior judge of the bench. The attorney general "should tell them, verbally, not to cut any trees in the meantime".
Attorney General AM Amin Uddin responded to this, saying: "I will speak to them immediately."
The government has faced criticism for the new development project it has undertaken at the Suhrawardy Udyan, the site of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's historic speech delivered on Mar 7, 1971.
The project includes the construction of a restaurant and a walkway, among other structures in the area. Several mature trees were felled for the new project and several others are marked for clearance.
Photographs of the felled trees spread on social media and drew condemnation from several organisations. Protests have been held in the area over the clearing of trees from the historic site.  
Plaintiff Manzill Murshid brought a 'contempt of court' allegation against Liberation War Affairs Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh, Public Works Department Chief Engineer Mohammad Shamim Akhter and Architecture Department Chief Architect Mir Manzurur Rahman after a legal notice asking for an end to the clearing of trees failed to elicit a response.
The High Court bench of Justice Rahman and Justice Khandaker Diliruzzaman held a preliminary hearing on Tuesday to discuss whether those involved would be held 'in contempt of court' for continuing to cut trees while ignoring the notice.
In addition to the contempt of court allegation, Murshid had also requested a freeze on the cutting of trees and construction of the planned restaurant.
He also requested that the government submit a full account of all the structures it planned to construct as part of the project to the court.
Meanwhile, Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque on Tuesday said felling of trees in the city's Suhrawardy Udyan will remain suspended for now and the next steps to this end would be taken in consultation with environmentalists and other stakeholders concerned.
He came up with the remark at a press briefing      on the ongoing the third phase construction of Swadhinata Stambha at Suhrawardy Udyan at the conference room of his ministry. The minister said it was supposed to cut down 100 trees of the historic Suhrawardy Udyan as part of implementation of a mega plan to preserve the history of Bangalees struggle of freedom for the next generation and about 50 trees have already been felled.
"As the environmentalists and others concerned have voiced concerns over tree felling, we will discuss the issue with stakeholders concerned, including environmentalists and urban planners, and will try to find a way to continue the work of Suhrawardy Udyan without causing any harm to the environment," he said.
However, he said, all the historical places of Suhrawardy Udyan related to the Liberation War and independence struggle will be preserved with due dignity.
Noting that the context and significance of Suhrawardy Udyan and other parks are different, Mozammel said other gardens are merely gardens but Suhrawardy Udyan has historical significance.
"Suhrawardy Udyan is one of the birthplaces of Bangladesh's independence," he added.
"The name of this park is connected with the historic speech of March 7, the history of the surrender of the Pakistani forces and the history of the rise of Bangladesh," the minister said. He said Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was unanimously conferred the 'Bangabandhu' title on February 23, 1969 at a mammoth gathering on this ground.
After the independence of the country, Mozammel said, Bangabandhu was released from Pakistan's prison and returned to independent Bangladesh on January 10 in 1972 and he was given a huge public reception at this park.

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