Monday, June 24, 2024

Illegal housing projects destroying wetlands

Only 21 projects have environment clearance
Housing projects having no clearance from the Department of Environment are sprouting around the capital destroying wetlands, agricultural land, rivers and canals in violation of wetland act and High Court directive. The Department of Environment said in and around Dhaka only 21 housing projects have environment clearance and the remaining numerous projects are developing by destructing wetlands, low lying lands and agricultural.
The city development authorities, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkhya, however, turned down such allegations and claimed that they never accepted housing project application without environment clearance.
During a visit to Mohammadpur Basila road, many signboards of different housing projects were seen on wetlands, low lying lands. Among them are Ekota Business Cooperative Association Housing, Future Town Housing Project, Suchona Model Town, Swapnadhara Hosing Project, etc.
Some housing projects gradually have eaten up canals. Aftab Housing Project has devoured Satarkul canal, Uttara Model Town grabbed Uttara canal, Ashiyan City encroached on Ashkona-Kaola canal and some portion of Balu River, Basila Garden City and Suchona Model Town is expanding its business on a canal at Basila.
Rajuk, responsible for developing the city, has itself filled up acres of wetlands including ponds, canals, bulldozed acres of forest land, orchard, crop land and agricultural land during land development work of Purbachal New Township Project.
Though article 5 of Playground, Open Space, Park and Natural Reservoir Conservation Act 2000 says that playground, open space, park and natural water bodies cannot be used otherwise — it cannot be rented and leased or cannot be hand over for any other use.
Even in 2011, the High Court declared 77 housing projects illegal and directed the government to take action against the schemes developed over the past decade by filling up low-lying wetlands, water bodies, rural homesteads and croplands but Rajuk in October 2012 gave temporary approval to the six companies running the illegal projects.
Architect Iqbal Kabir has said the reality is that land developers have filled up nearly 85 per cent of the wetlands and flood flow zones of the capital.
He said the projects initiated by Rajuk itself have been also developing by damaging low-lying land, agricultural land, river land, canals and land of depression of the capital and its surrounding areas.
Purbachal New Township Project is one of such projects though the project director Md Anwar Hossain denied the allegation and claimed that they have taken the environment clearance from DoE in 2002.
DoE deputy director (environment clearance) Nazmul Ahsan said Rajuk got site clearance, not environment clearance, of Purbachal project in 2002 which they did not renew till June 2012.
Later, at the end of 2012, Rajuk applied for renewal of site clearance and the DoE is evaluating this matter though they did not get any environment clearance.
He also said that in November 2011, the DoE fined Ashiyan City for changing the character of 230 acre low-lying wetlands, homesteads of the rural poor and destroyed graveyards and cropland including Ashkona-Kaola canal.
DoE director (Dhaka region) Abul Mansur told New Age that the big housing projects like Police Housing Project, Modhumati Model Town, Basila Garden City and Basundhara Housing project 2nd phase do not have environment clearance.
He said that in and around the capital only 21 housing projects have environment clearance of DoE and three projects’ environment clearance is under process.
However, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha director of town planning Khurshid Zabin Hossain Taufique told New Age that Rajuk did not approve any private housing projects which do not have environment clearance.
From 1984 till date, only 26 housing schemes got Rajuk final approval and six got temporary approval, he said, adding that a good number of housing schemes of land developers have failed to get Rajuk approval as they did not comply with Private Housing Land Development Act 2004.
As per the directives of the housing ministry, in October 2012 Rajuk gave final approval to six housing schemes of six companies including Bashundhara-Baridhara Project Phase-2, Ashiyan City, 137.2145 acre United City Residential Project Phase-1, 172.63 acre Notundhara Residential Project, 148.73 acre Green Model Town Residential Project Phase-1and 75.17 acre Swarnali Abashan Project Phase- 1.
Rajuk director KZH Taufique also added that they gave approval following Detailed Area Plan which was announced in June 2010 for 5 years to protect the Dhaka city from environmental disasters and to protect the wetlands, water retention areas, canals and flood-flow zones from land-grabbers.

-With New Age input

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