The National Housing Authority and Dhaka North City Corporation are at loggerheads over a 70-katha land at the Paris Road intersection area in Mirpur-11 of the capital on whether it would be used for housing plots or as a playground.
Recently, the DNCC filled the vacant land with sand and transformed it into a playground, responding to a long-standing demand of local people.
On the other hand, the housing authority claims that the land was allocated for plots to 32 people through a legal process in 1996, although the plot owners never got possession of the land.
DNCC officials said the land is shown as vacant in the detailed area plan (DAP), so the housing authority cannot allocate any plot here.
However, local people say they did not have any playground in this area and they are now happy to have one.
Local children and teenagers have already started using the land as a playground since the city corporation authority filled it with sand. People of other age groups also gather there for walking and other recreational activities.
The DNCC has also put up a signboard, mentioning the place as Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni Playground in one corner of the field.
Rafi Ahmed, a sixth grader, regularly comes to play in the playground. He told The Business Standard, "I used to spend the time with mobile phones or the computer after returning from school as there was no playground in this area. Now I come to this field every day. We want this playground to stay."
Golam Ali, a local resident, said, "We used to play football at this place in the 1990s. Later, slum dwellers occupied the entire area. Now it has become a playground again. It is good news, especially for children and the elderly."
Jahangir Alam, a shopkeeper near the place, said, "I have been here for almost 10 years. The place had turned almost into a dumping ground. Local drug addicts used to hang out here at night. As it has been turned into a playground, I also come here with my son in the afternoon."
The dispute between the two government agencies over the land came to the fore on 18 September, when the housing authority attempted to take possession of the land and faced resistance from the local councilor and local people.
On 29 September, the local people went for a hunger strike demanding a playground at this place. Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) Mayor Atiqul Islam came to the place and expressed solidarity with them in their demand. Later, they removed the waste from the place in less than a week on the mayor's order. After that, the DNCC filled the place with sand and put up the signboard.
On 2 October, Salwa Zaman, sub-divisional engineer of Housing Authority (Mirpur H&S Division-2) filed a general diary with the Pallabi Police Station, urging action against those involved in "illegal occupation" of the disputed land by transforming it into a playground.
The next day, Kawser Morshed, executive engineer of the Housing Authority (H&S Division, Mirpur) requested the Deputy Commissioner of Mirpur Police to take legal action against those involved in the process of "occupying 32 plots".
On 3 October, Supreme Court lawyer Ismail Khan issued a legal notice against DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam and local councilors on behalf of the seven people who had been allotted plots on the land. The notice also asked them to refrain from "forcibly creating a playground" by filling up the plots.
After that, Farzana Bobi, assistant town planner of the Urban Planning Department on behalf of Dhaka North City Corporation filed a general diary at Pallabi Police Station claiming the place as a playground. She requested the authorities to take action against those "who want to occupy the land in the name of plots".
The general diary claimed that the detailed area plan (DAP) shows the site as an open space. Besides, the 1987 layout plan of Section 11 also showed the site as an open space, it mentioned.
On 9 October, Bangladesh Kindergarten Association organised a meeting of teachers and parents as part of a movement demanding the playground. Urban Planner Iqbal Habib attended the meeting as chief guest.
Meanwhile, plot owners say that although the land is mentioned in the DAP as vacant, in the detail part it is mentioned as plots. On the other hand, DNCC officials say that it was included in the DAP as vacant because the housing authority mentioned it as so.
Aslam Parvez, who received a plot there from the National Housing Authority, told The Business Standard, "We have seen the DAP documents. It mentioned the plot number as 16886 in the mouza of Uttar Senpara Parbata. It is divided into four parts. The transfer of the actual possession of the plots and lease deeds have been completed."
He further said, "We have got this land by court order and we have taken recourse to the law to get a plot on this land. Why should we go to any other place? If the mayor and the councilor do not respond to our appeal, we will take further legal action."
Kawser Morshed, executive engineer of the National Housing Authority, told TBS, "Thirty-two people got this land as plots from the National Housing Authority. The land was not shown as vacant. If it were so, plot allocation would not have been possible. We are taking legal action in this regard."
Md Ashraful Islam, planner of Rajdhani Unnyan Kartripakkha and project director of DAP, said, "The housing authority sold the land as a plot long ago and later mentioned it as vacant land in their documents. That is why the DAP has also shown the land as vacant. As the DAP document is the latest and updated, we cannot give permission for housing here. It must be used as a park or playground."
Dhaka North City Corporations Mayor Atiqul Islam told TBS, "This place was shown vacant in 1965 and in the latest DAP. There can be no housing there. We have declared the land to be a field."
"Those who have been allotted plots there will have to settle the matter with the housing authority. We will convert the place into a modern playground," the mayor added.