The demolition works of the illegal BGMEA Building on the Hatirjheel in the capital was inaugurated on Wednesday by housing minister SM Rezaul Karim nine months after expiration of the deadline set by the Appellate Division in 2018.
The apex court while approving the appeal for the third time of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association on April 2, 2018 set April 11, 2019 for the demolition of the building taking undertaking from the association that it would not apply for further extension of the deadline.
The government assigned contractor, Four Star Enterprise, however, will start the formal demolition on Monday.
Rajdhani Unnyayan Kartripakkhya sealed off the building in last April following an apex court order and invited quotation for demolishing it within three months in own coast of the contractor. But, no work order was issued in last nine months, Rajuk officers said.
‘It stood as an “abscess” on the beautiful lake that was developed illegally violating laws. Finally we started its demolition in accordance with the high court order,’ Razaul Karim said while inaugurating works by digging the frontal floor of the building with a drill machine.
‘We took time for framing an effective demolition plan that will not harm life and the nature. Initially, we thought to demolish it with explosives but later scrapped it considering that an explosion might be harmful for the nearby 5-star hotel and might pollute air,’ the minister said.
The highest bidder, he said, just before issuing the work order last year decided not to proceed. ‘As we proceeded to issue work order to the second highest bidder, BGMEA authority approached us to take away some of their belongings,’ the minister explained.
‘We allowed them to take away some materials. But, we had no intention to give BGMEA any undue benefit and the prime minister Sheikh Hasina is well-informed of the whole process,’ he said.
The contractor, he said, would clean the area including the three basements of the building for uninterrupted flow of the water within six months paying money at the government fund.
‘An expert committee comprising representatives from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, army, fire service and development experts will monitor the demolition works,’ he said adding that a separate Rajuk monitoring team would also work.
Four Star Enterprise’s director Nasrulla Khan Rashed said that they would start demolition works from the 14th floor of the building on Monday.
‘We will first remove all the exterior glasses and then the structures,’ he said.
‘Nothing would be left in the lake. We will carry all the scraps at a place in Dholairpar that we hired for six months for storing those,’ he said.
He also said that Four Star Enterprise demanded discount of Tk 53 lakh from its original quotation rate of Tk 1.55 crore as BGMEA took away some of its belongings after the quotation was called. ‘We have not yet received any reply from Rajuk,’ Rashed said.
BGMEA president Rubana Huq said, ‘We have respect for the court verdict. We want that security of the life is ensured while demolishing it.’
Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh president Manzil Morshed and Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association executive director Syeda Rizwana Hasan said that long waited rule of law had been established through the process.
‘Of late, the government started demolishing the illegal building developed by the powerful business community violating the laws of the land. We had been waiting for the moment,’ Manzil Morshed told New Age.
‘With the demolition of BGMEA building, the much hailed but this far unimplemented wetland act of 2000 has been set to motion,’ Rizwana Hasan said.
‘This certainly is a welcome move and should convey a very strong message to all those involved in filling up the wetlands. It is a major step in favour of rule of law as well to dissuade the illegal business club house of BGMEA,’ she added.
Between 1998 and 2006, the BGMEA erected the 15-storey building, with three-basements, for its office on the lake violating several laws related to conservation of wetlands and environment and also blocking water flow of the Begunbari Canal near Karwanbazar.
BGMEA purchased the land with Tk 5.017 crore from the Export Promotion Bureau for developing its headquarter on the lake in 1998. The then prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, laid the foundation stone of the building in November 1998. In October 2006, the then prime minister, Khaleda Zia, inaugurated the building.
The army-sponsored caretaker government in 2008 approved the building on the condition that the BGMEA would construct a bridge on the Begunbari Khal. Following the order a bridge was developed on the Begunbari Khal but it could not ease clogging of the drainage system resulting in waterlogging up to Dhanmondi area, many experts said.
New Age on October 2, 2010 published a report narrating the adverse impact on the environment and drainage system of the capital for development of the illegal building on the confluence of the canal and the lake in violation of the Wetland Conservation Act 2000 and Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act 1995.
Following the report, the High Court Division on October 4, 2010 issued a suo moto ruling asking the government to explain why the BGMEA Building would not be declared to have been constructed illegally.
On April 3, 2011, the High Court Division declared the building illegal and ordered the BGMEA to demolish it within 90 days saying it was built on a land acquired through forgery and earth-filled the water body illegally.
The court also ordered Rajuk to pull down the building and realise the cost from the association if it failed to meet the deadline.
On June 2, 2016, Appellate Division of the Supreme Court upheld the High Court Division verdict. BGMEA, however, applied on three occasions seeking extension for the demolition deadlines.
Advocates Manzil Morshad and Rizwana Hassan are demanding that all the establishments which were developed bypassing the Hatijheel-Begunbari Beautification project layout should also be demolished.
‘Our petition demanding demolition of restaurants and other business enterprises which are hindering its traffic system is now pending with the High Court,’ Manzil told New Age.
‘No structure should be allowed in the lake area that will pollute its water. A lake means nothing without clean water,’ Rizwana said.
Housing minister Rezaul Karim claimed that the initiative had already been taken for improving water quality of Hatirjheel lake.
‘Other illegal structures in the project area would be demolished gradually,’ he said.
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