Bangladesh has proclaimed an order to redesign the capital city, requiring reclamation of 3,000 acres of land occupied by influential real estate companies, earlier dubbed as “land pirates” by senior government leaders.
All recommendations find place on gazette notification; fate depends on implementation
“The government had announced the DAP (Detailed Area Plan) for the capital Dhaka to prevent flooding and ease the traffic congestion in the city…this will require us to reclaim about 3,000 acres of land from the real estate companies,” a spokesman of the regulatory Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) told Media.
He added that they would launch a campaign to reclaim the land marked as flood flow zone and agricultural land in and around Dhaka while out of the total 590 square miles of jurisdiction area in the area plan, 33.35 per cent was kept for urban and rural residential and mixed purposes, which were expected to house 18.53 million people by 2015.
Several real estate companies, however, already raised high-rise residential projects involving crores while several hundred of such plots have already been sold despite media campaigns against land grabbing for unplanned projects exposing Dhaka, the home of an estimated 10.5 million people, to notorious traffic jams and water logging during monsoon rains.
According to earlier newspaper reports several of the housing project areas were occupied also by ruling Awami League leaders.
The Daily Star newspaper, however, feared that despite Tuesday’s government gazette notification approving DAP certain errant land development projects were likely to remain unscathed due to “legal loopholes”.
Quoting the government high-ups, the report said the authorities might need to take a softer stance in certain cases as the Town Improvement Act, Wetland Conservation Act, and DAP itself provide chances of appeal for violators, and discretionary authority for government high officials.
State-minister for public works and housing Abdul Mannan, who earlier declared a crusade against land grabbers calling real estate companies as “land pirates” told the newspaper that the government might need to accept “violations in certain cases”.
“But we will enforce the law sternly in the worst cases of violation,” he added. Such acceptance of errant land use will be considered only in greater public interest, said RAJUK chief Nurul Huda.
RAJUK officials said the DAP followed a principle in identifying the agricultural land, flood flow zones, water bodies and water retention ponds under a 1997 structural plan for the city.
They said several government establishments like Gazipur upazila or sub-district headquarters, Keraniganj upazila headquarters, Sonakanda BSCIC Industrial Area, Dhaka City Corporations dump at Baliarpur and Bhurulia REB office would also need to be relocated to free the flood flow zones
The committee also recommended stopping creation of a proposed military training ground for 14 Shatantra Engineering Brigade in Keranigaj, as the site is in a flood flow zone.
The private housing projects in flood flow zones recommended for abandonment are Modhumoti Model Town, Eastern Mayakanon, Advanced Angel City, Ashulia Model Town, Dhaka Udyan, Bashundhara Riverview in Keraniganj, New Uttara Model Town, BDDL Natundhara, Neptune housing project, Swarnali housing project, Swadesh housing project, Probashi Polli housing project in Gazipur, Prottasha housing project in Tongi municipality area, Shotabdi housing project, and Adarsha Shikkhok Abashik project in Uttarkawndiya. Some of these projects are not even approved.
The projects which were taken up after Dhaka’s master plan had been approved, but do not affect flood flow zones, the environment, and the livelihoods of local people will be allowed to remain untouched under a category titled ‘overlay’.
But projects marked as non-conforming developments, have to move out over a period.
The review committee identified 2,724 light, general, heavy, and noxious industries and factories as non-conforming.
Light industries include weaving and tailoring; general are food manufacturing, textiles, leather, wood products, paper, and metal; heavy industries are manufacturers of chemical products, rubber products, ceramics, plastic, glass, steel, and pharmaceuticals; while noxious ones are dyeing, tannery, fertiliser, industrial chemicals, salt, and petroleum product manufacturers.
Of them, 709 heavy and 174 noxious industries must move out from their present locations, over a period of time, to designated industrial zones, said Prof Jahan.
The rest may remain as ‘overlay’, as those are not environmentally very hazardous, he said.
Consultants hired by Rajuk submitted a draft of DAP in 2008. But urban planners, architects, and environmentalist groups vehemently opposed it, saying, it was grossly flawed with recommendations for accommodating housing projects based on earth-filling of flood flow zones.
Following the outcry, a 17-member review committee, headed by Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury, was formed in January last year to find out the planning anomalies in the draft. Finally the six-member committee also headed by Prof Reza made final recommendations that were incorporated in DAP.
In absence of DAP on time, the city’s topographic landscape, natural environment, wetlands, flood retention basins, and open spaces have been destroyed recklessly over the past decade, said urban planners