Over 22,500 acres of wetland, including water bodies and flood-flow zones, in and around the capital have been filled up by individuals, private companies and government agencies in the past nine years since Dhaka’s Detailed Area Plan came in effect in 2010.
Analysing satellite images of different areas in Dhaka’s two city corporations – Tarabo, Bhulta, Purbachal, Kaliganj, Tongi, Gazipur, Savar and Keraniganj – Bangladesh Institute of Planners general secretary Professor Adil Mohammad Khan on Thursday revealed the findings in a presentation.
The presentation was held at Midus Centre, where Prof Adil showed that 19,101 acres of flood-flow zones, 1,924 acres of water retention areas and 1,491 acres of Dhaka’s rivers, canals and ponds had been filled up during these nine years.
The filled up land is 22 per cent of Dhaka’s total 100,937 acres of land under the Detailed Area Plan, he said.
Such a vast area was encroached even after the enactment of three laws namely The Open Space and Natural Water Reservoir Conservation Act 2000, Bangladesh Environment Conservation (Amended) Act 2010 and Bangladesh Water Act 2013, he said.
He displayed the satellite images of encroachment of water bodies in Beraid, Basila and Aminbazar for 2010 and for 2019 without mentioning the names of those responsible.
Dhaka and adjacent areas lose, on an average, 4,200 acres of wetlands each year, he said.
Adil presented his study at a programme jointly organised by Association for Land Reform and Development, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, Bangladesh Institute of Planners, Nijera Kori, Nadi O Paribesh Unyayan Parishad Savar, Transparency International Bangladesh and Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services research associate Feroze Ahmed Kanak also presented findings of a satellite image-based study on encroachment along the Turag River bank between 2008 and 2018.
Feroze identified in his study 50 organisations as the encroachers of the land along the Turag between Diyabari and Birulia Bridge.
He, however, mentioned among the responsible the names of companies ABC Ready Mix, Akij Ready Mix, Amin Mohammad Group, Biswas Builders Limited, Crown Ready Mix, JTEG Ready Mix, K Mix, Maisha Construction Private Limited, Mir Akter and Seven Rings Ready Mix, NDE Ready Mix, Shamim Group, Singapore Garden Restaurant, Spectra Engineers Limited, Tamanna Family Park, TCL Asphalt and Tex Euro Bd.
Feroze revealed that Aminbazar sanitary landfill was founded after the Dhaka City Corporation developed an area by filling up land along the flood-flow zone of the Turag in Aminbazar area in 2007.
‘Initially 52 acres of land of the flood-flow zone were developed, but now it [the enterprise] occupies 74 acres of land,’ he said.
‘Because of the landfill many locals had to lose their ancestral homes. It has also had serious environmental impact on the adjacent 200 acres of crop fields and fisheries,’ Feroze said.
He identified Madhumati Model Town as another major encroacher in the area.
His study also shows that land-grabbing for development increased between 2008 and 2018 in these areas when the number of brick fields decreased in those years.
Discussants at the programme slated Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha for not taking action against the grabbers of the water bodies, retention areas and flood zones.
They also criticised Rajuk for violating its own Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan for the housing projects it is developing in Purbachal, Jhilmil and Uttara Phase 3.
‘When Rajuk itself violates its own laws, it cannot enforce those against other grabbers,’ said TIB executive director Iftekharuzzaman.
‘An unholy alliance among businesses, government officials and politicians is behind the grabbing of water bodies,’ he added.
‘Without the support of politicians it cannot happen,’ he observed, adding that 62 per cent members of the 11th national parliament were businessmen while they constituted just 17 per cent in the first parliament.
BELA executive director advocate Syeda Rizwana Hasan said, ‘The Appellate Division this morning has upheld its earlier decision declaring Modhumoti Model Town as illegal and ordered it to refund double money to the purchasers.’
‘It’s a ground-breaking verdict and will help us to fight against the grabbers,’ she said.
Contacted, Rajuk member Md Sayeed Noor Alam criticised the organisers for not inviting them to of the presentation.
‘They should have criticised us in our presence,’ he said terming the findings of the studies exaggeration.
‘It’s true that land-grabbing is a problem but the magnitude presented at the programme exceeds the reality,’ he said.
He also defended Rajuk’s position, saying that they developed three housing projects for providing accommodation to the public.
‘Development is also a mandate of Rajuk. Well, a few water bodies could be affected for those. But, it was done after getting approval from the government,’ he added.
Iftekharuzzaman said that the studies would be distributed to Rajuk and it would be invited the next time.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Country