The authorities of Premier University Chattogram have begun demolishing two structures of the educational institution that were built on a canal in the port city at Prabarttak intersection around 20 years ago.
The university authorities began the process of demolition last month as per the order of Chattogram Development Authority (CDA).
Locals have long been demanding that the structures be demolished as they said they have to suffer every year during monsoon since rainwater cannot flow through the canal as the building stand in the way. This causes severe waterlogging.
CDA is also building a bridge over the canal in the intersection as part of a mega project for reducing waterlogging in the city. As part of the project, the canal would be dredged and widened.
According to CDA sources, Chattogram City Corporation (CCC) authorities built the structures occupying Hijra khal (canal) to establish a private university without taking permission from the CDA. CDA is the authority that gives permission for building structures in port city. A four-storey building was built at the intersection in 2000. A total of 13 shops on the ground floor were then rented out by CCC.
Afterwards, the Institute of Business Technology was established on the first, second and third floors. In 2002, it was transformed into a university -- Premier University Chattogram.
Two more six-storey buildings were built for the university in the area. One of the two buildings was built on the canal, according to CDA officials.
Altaf Hossain, a resident of the area, said waterlogging worsened after the structures were built.
"We have been demanding for a long time that the authorities (CDA) demolish those," he said. "I wonder how a public organisation like the city corporation could build something occupying a water body."
Many also questioned how CDA could allow such a move by the city corporation.
However, CDA officials said they did not give CCC the permission, rather they issued a number of notices to them to demolish the structures since 2000.
"We do not give permission to anybody for building structures on canals," said Shahinul Islam Khan, chief town planner of CDA.
Asked why they did not go for eviction in the last 20 years, Shahinul said CCC is a public organisation and eviction drive cannot be conducted against them all of a sudden. "We have served notices to them several times in this regard," he said.
According to CCC sources, the structures were built during the tenure of former mayor late ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury. Later, during the tenure of former mayor M Monjur Alam, a decision was taken in the meeting of the university trustee board on May 19, 2014 to demolish those.
Asked why the structures were built on the canal, Monjur said, "Those were built during the tenure of Mohiuddin Chowdhury and as a ward councilor I was a member of the committee formed to establish a university in 2000."
"Back then, the civil society members asked the then mayor to establish a private university under the city corporation's authority in the city and so he took the steps," he added.
Monjur said the then mayor might have not realised the consequences. Moreover, there was a decision that the campus would be shifted immediately from the area.
Wishing anonymity, CCC officials told this correspondent that the university trustee board is responsible for the buildings and they should demolish it.
Contacted, Prof Dr Anupam Sen, vice chancellor of the university, said as CDA asked them to demolish the structures, they were doing so.
Asked why they did not demolish those sooner, he said CDA had not asked them to do so earlier.
CDA has been implementing the project to reduce waterlogging in the city and so they are widening and dredging Hijra khal. Bangladesh Army is implementing the project.
Contacted, Lt Col Md Shah Ali, project director, said, "We asked Premier University (Chattogram) to demolish the structures, leaving space of 6 metres for the canal and 1.5 metres more for working space," he said.