Real estate cos continue to grab wetlands 

Ershad Kamol | Published: 00:00, Aug 22,2019


A private housing project encroaching on the River Balu at Beraid in Dhaka goes uninterrupted despite demolishing of its boundary wall by a a BIWTA team. — Ershad Kamol

The influential realtors are developing private land or housing projects on wetlands, flood-flow zones of the rivers around the capital and their connecting canals as well as on low-lying areas ignoring the relevant laws of the land, environmentalists said.

They have lamented inaction by the government agencies concerned including the district administration, the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha and the department of environment though dozens of private developers are grabbing wetlands, flood-flow zones for housing projects in gross violation of the Open Space and Natural Water Reservoir Conservation Act 2000, the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act 1995 and the Bangladesh Water Act 2013. 

These developers, they said, are giving advertisements in media outlets and on hoardings to attract buyers for their unapproved projects also flouting the Private Residential Land Development Rule 2004.

They said that the rule required a company to obtain permission from the Rajuk before giving such advertisements in the media or on hoardings or signboards.

The rule further requires them to mention the project’s permission number in the advertisements.

Rajuk chairman Sultan Ahmed claimed that notices were served on the developers that illegally filled up lands and gave advertisements regarding their housing projects, which included big names like Jamuna Group, Amin Mohammad Group, Navana Group, Asian City, Neptune City, Pink City, among others.   

The ground realities, however, disprove the claims of Rajuk chairman as realtors such as Bashundhara, Jamuna, Amin Mohammad Group, Navana, Asian City, Pink City, Neptune Land Development Ltd and dozens others were developing prohibited lands for housing projects and giving advertisement on their unapproved projects expecting that they would get the  approvals for the projects as similar things happened before.

‘Everything happens in the knowledge of the regulators, but they usually turn a blind eye as the wealthy developers can grease their palms,’ Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan joint secretary Sharif Jamil told New Age.

‘The country’s culture of impunity encouraged developers to fill wetlands and flood-flow zones in and around the capital,’ he said.

The upshot is intensification of the recurrent waterlogging problems in the capital, drastic fall of ground water level and increase in temperature for greenhouse effects, he noted.

Over 22,500 acres of wetland, including water bodies and flood-flow zones, in and around the capital were filled up in the nine years since Dhaka’s Detailed Area Plan came in effect in 2010, reveals a satellite image study done by the Bangladesh Institute of Planners general secretary professor Adil Mohammad Khan.

Though hundreds of private land development projects have mushroomed in and around Dhaka, Rajuk records show that only 26 of them have taken its approval.                                                                                                                         

Navana sales department’s senior executive SM Farukuzzaman said that they were giving advertisements to draw customers for their unapproved projects as the Eastern, Bashundhara and Amin Mohammad groups did earlier.

‘You can’t show a single housing project in Bangladesh that started development works and gave advertisements only after getting permission,’ Farukuzzaman emphatically said.

He claimed that Navana would get permissions for their two projects alright as government officials purchased plots in those. ‘We are developing more projects beside the Dhaka-Munshiganj highway,’ he disclosed.

Amin Mohammad Group’s head of media Gazi Ahmadullah said that the realtor was giving advertisements on the Green Banashree, Amin Mohammad City, Amin Mohammad Town projects as it applied for their approvals.

‘Do you know how many years we waited for the permission of our Green Model Town? Can it be a topic for news when it is the trend?’ Ahmadullah asked.

BAPA member-secretary Iqbal Habib lambasted the realtors for violating the laws and giving lame excuses for their illegal activities.

‘The Rajuk cannot take action [against the offenders] as the agency itself has violated laws while developing its Purbachal, Jhilmil and Uttara Phase 3 projects,’ Habib offered.

He also demanded a fair inquiry in the processes of how the projects initiated by Bashundhara, the Army, police and bureaucrats were approved.

‘A commission must be formed to look into the nature of violation of laws while giving approvals to the projects as the examples set by them encouraged others also to grab wetlands and flood-flow zones,’ he viewed.

Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association executive director Syeda Rizwana Hasan said, ‘When the housing minister talks about good governance, he should take exemplary action against the land developers who are grabbing wetlands, flood-flow zones, and luring the common people through advertisements.’

‘Unfortunately, corrupt officials in the district administration even help the illegal grabbers of wetlands by producing documents in their favour,’ she observed.

Housing minister SM Rezaul Karim said that actions would be taken for giving advertisements on the unapproved housing projects.

‘But, the district administration will have to take action against the wetland grabbers as it’s their jurisdiction,’ Rezaul said.

Dhaka’s deputy commissioner Abu Saleh Muhammad Ferdaus Khan, however, said that he needed to see files before talking on the issue.

Habib commented that both the minister and the DC bypassed their responsibilities.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority’s joint director AKM Arif Uddin said that the agency recently demolished properties developed by realtors such as Amin Momen Development, Akashnila, Silicon City, Anirban and Madhu City for grabbing land on Dhaka rivers.

Illegal structures of several businesses such Unique Group, Pran-RFL Group and Bashundhara Group were also demolished during the drive, he added. 

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