China Road and Bridge Corporation Ltd Bangladesh, which is constructing Karnaphuli tunnel and several other roads and bridges, has proposed two satellite housing projects at Ashulia and Keraniganj on the outskirts of the capital drawing flak from the greens.
The housing ministry on October 17 approved the Chinese company’s application for signing a memorandum of understanding with Rajdhani Unnyayan Kartripakkha for conducting a feasibility study at Ashulia for the proposed project.
‘As per the proposal, the Chinese corporation will conduct the feasibility study in own expense and we will decide the fate of the proposal after getting the study report,’ said housing minister SM Rezaul Karim.
He said that the ministry was yet to decide on the proposal regarding Keraniganj.
Parliamentary standing committee on housing ministry chairman Mosharraf Hossain, also the immediate past housing minister, said that the committee meeting held on Sunday recommended that the ministry should approve the proposed projects immediately for reducing housing crisis.
‘More housing projects are required to decrease the density of population from the centre of the capital by developing more satellite cities,’ Mosharraf said.
‘The proposed projects will not affect the flood flow zones or the drainage system as the Chinese firm has already proposed to keep 62 per cent water bodies in the project areas,’ he argued.
Convinced of the ‘engineering solutions to the drainage system and flood flow zones,’ Mosharraf, being the housing minister, gave approval to the housing project of Bashundhara on the eastern fringe in 2013, ignoring protests from the greens, housing ministry officials said.
The Chinese corporation had been relentlessly pursuing its satellite city projects when Mosharraf was the minister, they said.
Initially, the corporation wanted to sign a contract with the government for the projects without even having any feasibility study, they said, adding that Rezaul included the condition recently.
The firm has not yet clearly defined whether these projects will be government to government or public-private partnership projects. It kept both provisions open, officials added.
The greens termed the proposed projects as a disaster waiting to happen and added that they would violate the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act and Open Space and Natural Water Reservoir Conservation Act.
They would amount to another suicidal attempt at prioritising development projects by destroying the critical drainage system of the capital, they continued.
‘I hope this is not a ploy to legalise international land grabbers and allow them to do things what the local land grabbers could not do,’ Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association chief executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan said.
‘The flood flow zones and paddy fields of Ashulia and Keraniganj must be protected from arbitrary development schemes that are being imposed without any consultation,’ she added.
Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon joint secretary Sharif Jamil feared that other local companies would start developing housing projects in the adjacent areas if the Chinese firm was allowed to implement the projects in the huge flood plain areas.
‘Following protests of the environmentalists, Jamuna group stopped development activities at Ashulia,’ he said.
Architect and green activist Iqbal Habib said that the foreign firms were using the government officials and politicians as their agents and were making them accept ‘destructive projects’, those that go against the interest of the nation.
‘Allowing foreign companies to carry out land development projects will also destroy the local real estate business that is faced with many challenges at present and incurring huge losses,’ he argued.
Iqbal demanded environmental impact assessment by any reputed organisation before initiating any such projects on the outskirts of the capital.
CRBC business manager Yu Ji King said, being a development partner of Bangladesh, the company is interested to invest in every sector.
The housing minister said that the rule of law would be upheld and transparency would be ensured in any project initiated by his ministry.
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