Mercy Miyang Tembon, the World Bank country director in Bangladesh, was thrilled to visit two old buildings with architectural beauty and historic significance at Farashganj in Old Dhaka during a visit on Monday morning.
The buildings are Northbrook hall, a public hall and Johnson hall, a library which was built in 1880 by old Zamindars of that time on the bank of the Buriganga River.
According to Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), the Northbrook town hall building was constructed by Raja Ray Bahabdur along with prominent Zamindars in Dhaka to commemorate the visit of Indian Governor Thomas Baring and Viceroy Lord Northbrook. It was built in 1879 and inaugurated in 1880.
On the other hand, Johnson Hall, a public library was constructed in 1882 and inaugurated with 1,000 books in 1887. Maharajas of Tripura, Zamindar of Baliati Brojendro Kumar Roy were among the chief patron of the library.
But the heritage sites are now in a dilapidated condition due to ignorance by the successive Mayors of Dhaka.
There are two illegal buildings inside the boundary of the heritage site--- Farshganj sporting Club and a diabetic society building.
DSCC has now moved to restore the old look of Lalkuthi heritage buildings at Farashganj in Old Dhaka keeping the architectural beauty of the buildings intact under a development project named Dhaka City Neighborhood Upgrading Project with funds from the World Bank.
Taposh said, “Buildings like Lalkuthi created a separate identity of Dhaka. If we cannot conserve the heritage for our future generations, we cannot present a history of Dhaka to them.”
He said earlier people could see the river from the buildings but illegal occupants including the government agencies constructed several structures blocking the view of the rivers.
“I urged them to remove the launch terminal from the riverfront. We are not only restoring the Lalkuthi or Northbrook Hall, we have initiated the work of restoring our Dhaka.”
Taposh said, “The thought of becoming the mayor came to my mind when I felt the urge that this is the time for reviving Dhaka. The thinking inspires me for running for the post. Unfortunately, when I was elected, I only found that there is only two buildings with heritage value are under DSCC. One is Lalkuthi and another is Dhaka Gate.”
Talking to Daily Sun, the director of the project, Sirajul Islam said, “We will renovate the worn-out part of the two buildings with help of heritage experts. We will use materials following the architectural design of the existing buildings.”
He said, “We will demolish an illegal building next to the Northbrook hall. We will construct a new building there which will provide some community facilities like a community centre and an office of local ward councillor.”
He also said they have also planned to create a wide footpath beside the riverbank along with sitting arrangements.