Stop them, right now

HC again asks Rajuk to stop all activities of illegal housing schemes; stays effectiveness of Ashiyan City's DoE certificate

The High Court yesterday once again directed Rajuk to immediately stop all activities of unauthorised housing projects including their filling of land, advertisements, and selling plots in and around Dhaka.

In response to a writ petition, the court ordered the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha to stop such activities of Ashiyan City, a housing project, which had a conditional and partial approval from the housing ministry to develop land in Holan and Ashkona near Uttara in the capital.

Ashiyan City is one of 78 private housing projects in and around Dhaka city which were declared illegal by another High Court bench in June, 2011. In December, 2011, the court banned publishing of advertisements of any unauthorised housing projects in the print and electronic media.

The High Court then ordered the government to take stern legal action against publicity and filling of land for such projects.

Yesterday, the High Court stayed for three months the effectiveness of Ashiyan City's site clearance, issued by the Department of Environment, and the renewal of the certificate.

It also issued a rule upon the government authorities concerned and Ashiyan City to explain within four weeks as to why the issuance of the environmental certificate and the renewal should not be declared illegal.

The DoE issued Ashiyan City the certificate on December 24, 2009, and renewed it on June 12, 2012.

The court yesterday stayed an order of the Ministry of Environment that had reduced Ashiyan City's penalty for illegally filling up water bodies with dirt.

The DoE in November, 2011, fined Ashiyan City Tk 50 lakh for destroying wetlands, flood plains, aquatic life and local ecology by illegal filling of land in Ashkona. The ministry later slashed the fine to Tk 5 lakh.

The court yesterday asked the authorities concerned to explain within four weeks as to why this reduction of fine should not be declared illegal.

Secretaries to the ministries of housing and public works, land, forest and environment, home, information, and Rajuk chairman, director general of DoE, and its director (monitoring and enforcement), deputy commissioner of Dhaka and managing director of Ashiyan City have been made respondents to the rules.

In a rule, the bench of Justice Mirza Hussain Haider and Justice Khurshid Alam Khan asked the managing director of Ashiyan City to explain as to why he should not be directed to remove the dirt he had dumped in the wetlands.

It asked him to immediately submit a list of plots he had already sold to people and all papers and documents relating to the approval of the housing project.

The court came up with the order and rules after hearing a writ petition jointly filed by eight rights organisations that said Ashiyan City authorities had been filling and constructing structures on around 230 acres of land even though the company had Rajuk permission for development on only 43 acres.

Ashiyan City grabbed land of locals for the projects violating wetland conservation and other relevant laws and the High Court's earlier directives, the petitioners claimed.

Scores of affected people of Holan and Ashkona had gathered with complaints against Ashiyan City on November 17, 2011, when a DoE team had gone there and fined Ashiyan City. They complained of land-grabbing and destruction of their homesteads.

At least 33 affected locals formally filed allegations against Ashiyan City.

Ain O Salish Kendra, Association for Land Reforms and Development, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, Institute of Architects Bangladesh, Nijera Kori, and Paribesh Banchao Andolon filed the petition on December 22, 2012.

Iqbal Kabir Lytton, a counsel for the petitioners, told The Daily Star that around 100 unauthorised housing projects were filling water bodies and selling plots of land in and around the Dhaka city.

Most of them were also running advertisements through the media ignoring the court's earlier orders, he claimed.

Rajuk must take steps immediately to stop activities of the unauthorised housing projects, he said.

Source:The Daily Star