RHD doing the job of city corporation; naturalists say bonsais are not meant for roadside decoration

Although it is the job of the city corporations, the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) has embarked on a Tk 90 crore beautification and pavement maintenance work on the capital's Airport Road.

The work is being backed by an ad firm.

Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) Mayor Annisul Huq himself said he requested the RHD to hand over the tasks to them but to no avail.

“We have officially objected to erecting billboards along the Airport Road,” said the mayor. “A government department is doing the work. What can I do?”

The RHD's move to plant 500 Chinese and Taiwanese bonsai Ficus (Bot) as part of the "beautification" has also been slammed by naturalists.   

The imported bonsais planted on the pavement of Airport Road in the capital. The photo was taken recently.
The imported bonsais planted on the pavement of Airport Road in the capital. The photo was taken recently. © Prabir Das


Former president of Institute of Architects Bangladesh Abu Sayeed M Ahmed said the efforts to beautify seemed dominated by money and pomp with aesthetics taking a back seat.

Bonsai is a commercial product used for artificial beauty, he said, adding, “Why do we need this when we have a rich botanical diversity?”

Sabuj Uddin Khan, a RHD superintendent engineer, said they wanted to do something exceptional with the bonsais. "We will be planting both foreign and local trees along the road.” 

The concrete wall is meant to conceal the garbage and "anti-social elements" along the railway lines near the road and it will be covered with green creeper plants, he said.

Kazi Golam Nasir, chief architect of the Department of Architecture, said the Airport Road was the main gateway to Dhaka for foreigners and it gave a first impression of the country. "Its beautification plan should have been shared with relevant professionals, naturalists and the mayor."

Planning such a thing is the job of landscape architects and urban designers, he said, the road should have been adorned with native species of trees and plants.    

In a similar note, Landscape Architect Khondaker Hasibul Kabir said adorning a major road with imported bonsais was not consistent with the idea of aesthetics, natural beauty and tradition.

“It looks weird in Bangladesh, a country so rich with a diverse range of trees,” he said.

In defence of the bonsais, Vinyl Chief Executive Abaib Monsur said it was a "universal" type of tree. He also added that they would also plant some local species as well.

Asked about the lack of involvement of architects and urban designers in the project, he said RHD engineers regularly monitored the work.


Mayor Annisul Huq expressed said the RHD, in no way, could carry out the tasks within the city corporation.

“We have several times requested RHD for handing over the Airport Road, to no use,” he said, “Still, we clean the road.” 

The mayor added, “Now, they are building a concrete wall along the road, as if they are making a prison, without asking anyone.”

Commodore MA Razzak, chief waste management officer of DNCC, said the RHD has not even shared their plan with them.

RHD Superintendent Engineer Sabuj Uddin Khan said, “I agree that the work should be done by the city corporation. Though the part from Moghbazar to Banani of the road, officially called the Tongi-Joydevpur highway, has been handed over to the city corporation, the airport portion of it has not been handed over for some reason.”