Preparations to cut down trees for building construction

This area has been selected for the construction of the extension of the building for the Faculty of Biological SciencesProthom Alo

Constructions of 12 buildings under the ‘further development project’ at a cost of Tk 14.45 billion are underway at the Jahangirnagar University (JU). Already six residential halls have been constructed under this project. More than 1,000 trees were cut while constructing these buildings.

The teachers and students of the university claim that the trees are being cut as the buildings have been constructed in an unplanned way. They have been staging a movement over the last five years for a master plan to construct buildings. Amid their movement, the authorities have taken initiatives to construct two other buildings. More than 200 trees are likely to be cut down for the construction of these two buildings.

A section of the teachers and students are saying that buildings are being constructed by cutting down trees one after another ignoring their demand for a master plan, which is endangering the biodiversity of the campus.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, zoology department professor at JU Monwar Hossain said the biodiversity of the university is at stake due to cutting down trees in an unplanned way. The authorities should sit with experts to draw up a master plan to settle these issues. Otherwise, the biodiversity of the campus would be destroyed, he feared.

JU vice-chancellor (VC) Md Nurul Alam announced to develop a master plan in the face of a movement of the teachers and students. A technical management committee was formed for this.

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However, the administration has cut down trees to construct the extensions of the buildings of the Faculty of Biological Sciences and Faculty of Mathematics and Physics before that.

Prothom Alo contacted the office of JU VC Nurul Alam, but he said he was too busy to talk then. Prothom Alo tried to reach him over the phone several times later. But he didn’t pick up.

According to the sources in the planning and development office of the university, vice-chancellor Md Nurul Alam laid the foundations for the constructions of a six-storey 120,000 square foot building at a cost of Tk 480 million in the opposite side of the Wazed Mia Laboratory and another six-storey 130,000 square feet building on the water body beside the physics department at a cost of Tk 580 million on 10 March.

We hardly can study amid excessive noise from the road. There is no respite from the noise even after closing the windows
JU student Mirza Maimuna, a resident of newly constructed Fazilatunnesa Hall

On that same day, the JU unit of the Bangladesh Chhatra Union formed a human chain and declared that they wouldn't allow any construction of buildings without any master plan. The students have been holding different programmes since then.

Visiting the JU campus on Sunday, it was seen that a certain area has been fenced off for the construction of the two extended buildings. Bricks were being picked up from the road towards the Faculty of Biological Sciences in front of the Wazed Mia Laboratory. There are more than 200 trees of different species in the fenced area that will be cut during the constructions of these buildings.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Amartya Roy, president of a faction of university Chhatra Union unit, said they have been holding a movement for a long time for a master plan.

However, the administration continues to construct buildings one after another without paying heed to our demand. If another building is constructed without any master plan, then they would have no other way than embark upon a one-point movement demanding the resignation of the VC.

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University project director and the member secretary of the TMC formed for the development of the master plan, Nasir Uddin said the approvals for those two buildings have been given in compliance with all laws. Already the foundations of these buildings have been laid.

Speaking regarding constructing buildings without any master plan, he said constructions of four of the buildings under this project are yet to start. The money will be sent back to the national treasury if the works don’t start from December. Developing a master plan is a lengthy process. Already the committee has started working on this. They are holding meetings with all the quarters of the university.

Sufferings due to the unplanned buildings

The students are facing different sorts of problems due to the construction of buildings haphazardly. Three residential halls for the male students were constructed beside the Shaheed Rafiq-Jabbar Hall and Maolana Bhashani Hall four years ago. However, the level of noise pollution increased exponentially for erecting three buildings at the same place.

Meanwhile, the students of Shaheed Rafiq-Jabbar Hall erected a wall on the roads towards the newly constructed Sheikh Russel and Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmad residential halls considering the security risk and noise pollution due to the movements of the students on the road. The students from three residential halls locked into a fight over tearing down the wall.

On the other hand, three new residential halls for the female students have been built alongside the Dhaka-Aricha highway. The students at these halls are suffering immensely due to excessive sounds from the vehicles on the highway. They can hardly sleep or study due to excessive noise.

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JU student Mirza Maimuna, a resident of newly constructed Fazilatunnesa Hall, said, “We hardly can study amid excessive noise from the road. There is no respite from the noise even after closing the windows. We can’t even sleep during the night due to the sounds from heavy vehicles.”

A section of the teachers and students claim the students would have suffered if the buildings were constructed according to a master plan. There have been several incidents of fights among the students for constructing buildings without maintaining any distance.

* This report appeared on the print and online versions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu