A joint press conference organised by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), Bangladesh Institute of Planners, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), Nijera Kori and other environmental organisations on April 25 revealed that since the official gazette on Dhaka city’s Detailed Area Plan (DAP) was issued in 2010, the city has lost 3,440 acres of flood flow zones, water retention areas and water bodies available—which is 36 percent of the total 9,556 acres. The relentless encroachment driven primarily by illegal real estate activities in violation of the DAP 2010 is threatening the future sustainability of the city in terms of heat absorption, biodiversity and the ability to drain storm water.
The water retention bodies have been filled up and the data is mindboggling. Basila, Bashundhara residential area, Beraid, Amin Bazar, and North Uttara are some of the areas that have been worst affected. This has of course adversely affected the people who lost access to ancestral homes and lands. All this has been done in the name of development and progress and in gross violation of the DAP. But the reality is that in the absence of good governance and lack of enforcement of laws by Rajuk, the last decade has spelled doom for the natural biodiversity of the capital city and, today, we are facing the ills of too much built-up area where a mild shower can inundate major portions of the city. There can be no denying the fact that Rajuk, the custodian of Dhaka, is responsible for much of the floodplain loss. When Rajuk itself has encroached the protected area, how is it expected to compel others to uphold the DAP?
Environmentalists and city planners are of the opinion that existing laws need to be enforced if we are to get out of this mess. Perhaps the time has come to revisit how much land can be owned at the individual and corporate levels. We can no longer afford to have greedy real estate interests grab massive swaths of water bodies to turn them into commercial plots for their own benefit at the cost of Dhaka’s future.