Dhaka city needs no wetlands and water retention areas around it for storm drainage and environmental conservation, said influential realtors at a public consultation yesterday.
They termed the current detailed area plan (DAP) of the capital “faulty” and “questionable” and urged Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) to revise it in adequate consultation with them in consideration of current “reality”.
“There is no necessity for wetlands and water retention areas all around the city for storm drainage. These rather breed mosquitoes,” said Gazi Mozammel Haque, assistant inspector general of police, who spoke for Ananda Police Housing scheme located by 300-foot Purbachal Highway.
He was speaking at the consultation meeting on the updating process of Dhaka's DAP organised by Rajuk at its Dilkusha head office.
Conservation of wetlands and water bodies should be done in light of “reality” and not on the basis of CS or RS land records, he said.
By reality he meant whatever wetlands are filled up and developed should be accepted as it is in the upcoming DAP.
Md Sohel Rana, vice-president of Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh, echoed the same. He added only artificial drainage system would be sufficient for freeing the city of waterlogging.
Ahmed Akbar Sobhan, chairman of Bashundhara Group, one of the largest business conglomerates, and president of Bangladesh Land Developers Association, said keeping retention areas for storm water management is an archaic idea.
“Do not make a plan that you cannot implement,” he said, addressing Rajuk Chairman Md Abdur Rahman, who was chairing the meeting. “Any attempt to prepare a DAP excluding us would be a blunder.”
Maj Gen Abu Sayed Md Masud, chairman of Jolshiri Abashon, a private housing scheme in Rupganj for defence officials, said DAP should not be prepared hurriedly and should be implementable.
Lack of coordination among different government agencies is not favourable for planned development, observed General Sayed, also the chief coordinator of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge.
In response, DAP Project Director Md Ashraful Islam said the provisions for water retention areas in the city's eastern fringe are already incorporated in the DAP based on a study by British consulting firm Halcrow Group.
According to the master plan, there is no scope for endorsing whatever wetlands and water bodies are filled up, said Rajuk board member for planning Ziaul Hasan.
Echoing him, Rajuk Chairman Md Abdur Rahman said officially recorded rivers, canals and water bodies would be conserved at any cost.
The 2,100-acre Jolshiri Abashon proposed in between the Balu and Shitalakkhya rivers in 24 moujas of Rupganj and Kayetpara unions of Rupganj upazila included flood flow zone, water bodies, agricultural lands and rural homesteads that the DAP earmarked as conservable.
However, a seven-minister committee later reviewed the DAP on recommendation by Rajuk and altered the designated land use on the basis of a water modelling design to make way for the housing scheme.
Similar land use alteration followed in favour of Bashundhara residential area towards the Balu river and several other private housing schemes around the capital to the much public outcry that allowing random earth-filling of wetlands, water bodies and agricultural lands would cause environmental disasters and waterlogging.
Leading environmentalists at a similar consultation meeting on October 30 demanded conservation of the rivers, canals and wetlands in and around the capital as per official records (RS and CS) for environment conservation, ecology and storm water management.
Both the DAP and the Structure Plan of Dhaka's master plan for an 1,528 square kilometres area strictly prohibit development of housing projects in water bodies, rural homesteads and flood flow zones that facilitate movement of water during monsoon.
The current DAP suggests reclaiming over 2,500 acres of flood flow zones and agricultural land from the grip of illegal property developers, relocation of 3,000 industries and scrapping of 16 development projects.
Of the master plan area, conservable flood flow zone, water retention area and water bodies (canals, lakes, rivers) together constitute 405 square km and agricultural land covers 330 square km.
With the capital's present DAP remaining unimplemented in the face of opposition from the influential realtors, the government is drawing up yet another 20-year plan. With an objective to ensure “planned urban development” covering an area of over 1,500 square km, the plan would cost more than Tk 33 crore for implementation.
Noted urban planners have warned time and again that destruction of flood plains and wetlands would only bring about environmental disasters, waterlogging and health crisis for the capital, regardless of its economic status.
According to them, an estimated 83 percent of the conservable flood flow zones and wetlands have already been destroyed and grabbed by influential realtors and businesspersons.