BLATANT breaches of the laws that protect wetland, flood flow zones, open space and natural water reservoirs by real estate companies speak of a never-ending tale of the inefficiency of agencies that are mandated to protect such places. Green campaigners allege that, as New Age reported on Thursday, government agencies such as the district administration, the city planning authorities Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha and the environment department have hardly lifted a finger to stop real estate companies from violating the laws — the Open Space and Natural Water Reservoir Conservation Act 2000, the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act 1995 and the Bangladesh Water Act 2013 — by grabbing wetland, flood flow zone, rivers and canals connected to the rivers and low-lying areas for housing projects. The companies are also reported to be violating another rule, the Private Residential Land Development Rules 2004, by advertising the sales of the housing projects, on the media and with hoardings and signposts, for which the companies are yet to obtain permission of the city development authorities. The rules make it mandatory for companies to obtain permission before advertising any housing projects and publish the number of the permission for the projects obtained from Rajuk.
With Rajuk claiming that it has served notices on the real estate companies that have illegally dirt-filled land and advertised their housing projects, some of the companies are reported to have explained their advertisement saying that they hope to get the permission for the housing projects, on prohibited land, as it happened in cases of other projects in the past. They hope to get the permission as one company said that government officials bought plots in two projects that it developed. Government officials buying plots in such illegal housing projects appears to be working as a device for real estate companies to obtain Rajuk permission. The regulators are suspected to have known everything that goes awry and they do not put in efforts to end such corruption and irregularities. A satellite image survey, conducted by the Bangladesh Institute of Planners general secretary, shows that more than 22,500 acres of wetland in and around the capital city were dirt-filled in nine years after the detailed area plan for Dhaka came into force in 2010 and Rajuk records suggest that only 26 of the housing projects in and around Dhaka has approval. Besides, Rajuk cannot have taken action against offenders as the agency itself has violated the laws in its development of some housing projects for both public and private individuals.
While Rajuk must act to prove its worth by going tough on the offending real estate companies, the government must also break the culture of impunity, born out of and consolidated by Rajuk’s leniency, that real estate companies appear to be enjoying, because such corruption and irregularities result in the problem of water stagnation in the capital city, a drastic decline in ground water level and an increase in temperature for greenhouse effects. The government must also hold to account Rajuk for having developed prohibited land for housing projects and other companies for having dirt-filled, and still dirt-filling, prohibited land for housing projects. And the government must do all this before the city hurtles to a disaster.
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