Rising high the audacity | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 25, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 25, 2010

Rising high the audacity

Skyscrapers built far beyond approval; owners stop Rajuk move for demolition with HC stay; documents on approval go missing from Rajuk; housing state minister blames it on a nexus

Clockwise from top left, Bulu's Tower, a 15-storey commercial building which has approval for only six residential floors; 18-storey Premier Square, the owner of which failed to produce any document in support of the building's approval despite repeated notices from Rajuk; Natore Tower, a 15-storey commercial establishment, the design of which shown by its managing director is for a residential building; and 22-storey Jabbar Tower, which has an approval for only nine floors.

Powerful entrepreneurs including a lawmaker built several high-rise commercial buildings far taller than allowed by approved designs in the capital, and the regulatory authorities are saying they cannot demolish the prominent illegal structures without a "green signal from the government high-ups".
High officials of Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), the government agency for regulating building constructions in the city, also attributed their failure to prevent the unauthorised structures to "missing documents", and High Court stay orders.
Such illegal actions occur with the help of an unholy nexus among Rajuk and sections of officials in the housing ministry and the legal system, said Abdul Mannan Khan, state minister for housing and public works.
Records obtained by The Daily Star show that the buildings include 22-storey Jabbar Tower that has an approval for only nine storeys, and 15-storey Bulu's Tower with approval for only six residential storeys.
Approval records of two other such high-rises, 18-storey Premier Square and 15-storey Natore Tower, are missing from Rajuk archive, the agency officials said.
The owner of Premier Square did not produce any copy of approval despite notice from the agency requesting for it, the officials said adding, even if there was an approval, it could not have been for more than eight storeys.
About Natore Tower the officials however said it has an approval for six residential floors.
Owners of the buildings already sold or rented out most of the floors as commercial spaces.
The records show that Rajuk took long intervals between serving show-cause notices and demolition notices to the errant building owners, which provided them with adequate time to build the illegal floors.
Most of the building owners also took cover of High Court stay orders on Rajuk's demolition notices, to continue building floors after floors beyond the approved limits.
Sheikh Abdul Mannan, director (development control) of Rajuk, said, "There is no denial that there are lapses on the part of Rajuk, I don't know why the notices were served in this manner."
Md Nurul Huda, chairman of Rajuk, said, "It requires political decision to execute demolition of such high-profile buildings."
MA Jabbar, one of the two owners of Jabbar Tower also a Jatiya Party lawmaker elected from Satkhira, said he built the building violating the approved design, as "Rajuk officials gave an impression that they would approve it".
"Let the government demolish my building if it is illegal," he said, "I will place it in the parliament."
Rajuk approved the design for a nine-storey building at Gulshan-1 roundabout in 2004, in favour of MA Jabbar and his brother MA Gaffar.
Next year, the owners applied for approval of a design for a fifteen-storey building instead, which Rajuk turned down.
Later, they applied for an approval for 22 storeys to Rajuk's appellate authority, which too turned it down on the ground that the building had already been built in violation of the approved design.
But the owners still continued with the construction.
Although Rajuk served a demolition notice in August 2006, it did not execute it. The owners got the demolition stayed by the High Court in February next year.
Up to the 17th floor of the building have already been sold or rented out, said Jabbar.
He said Rajuk should have no reason to deny him an approval for the building, as they approved the 24-storey Westin Hotel on Gulshan Avenue.
Situated on plot no-78 on Gulshan Avenue, the building is owned by Momtaz Begum, wife of HBM Iqbal, vice-president of Dhaka city unit of ruling Awami League, said Nazmul Islam, manager of Iqbal Centre, a commercial high-rise owned by Iqbal himself.
Rajuk served a demolition notice to the owner in April this year, as she failed to produce any document in support of the building's approval despite repeated notices.
Nazmul however claimed that Premier Square was built conforming to the approved design.
Asked whether they had any document, he handed over the phone to one Md Mostafa, who identified himself as an employee of Iqbal Centre and said, "Newspaper reporters are not the authorised persons to whom we are obligated to show documents."
On July 22, Nazmul showed up at The Daily Star office, and claimed that the building has an approval for 16 storeys.
Asked again for documents, he said he had a copy of the approval, and would show it on July 24. Contacted on that date, he said the document was with HBM Iqbal, and he was abroad.
The building's Site Engineer Kamal Hossain said the first three floors of the building have already been rented out.
The 15-storey commercial building on Gulshan Avenue has approval for only six residential floors, which was issued in 2006.
It is on a 26-katha plot, and first eight of its floors have been rented out, said its owner MNH Bulu, chairman of BNS Group.
As the building's construction violated the approved design, Rajuk undertook a demolition programme in April 2008, but then stopped it after the owner gave an undertaking that he would demolish the illegal portion on his own.
He however continued with the construction in violation of the approved design.
Rajuk served another demolition notice in March this year, but did not execute it as the owner filed a petition with the High Court.
Bulu claimed he has an approved design for a 20-storey building, and said he would show documents.
On the appointed day, he said he was sick. Contacted again, he said, "You better not write this report."
The 15-storey commercial building is on a 12-katha residential plot in Uttara.
Rajuk served the first notice to the owner asking for a proof of approval in March 2008, it served another notice last year informing the owner of the construction deviations, and this year it served a demolition notice.
The owner obtained a stay order in April and again in July on Rajuk's demolition notice from the High Court bench of Justice Mamtaz Uddin Ahmed and Justice Naima Haider.
"We started the construction in mid 2007, and Rajuk didn't stop us while we were erecting the whole building," said Md Abul Kashem, managing director of Hamja Chemical Industries also owner of Natore Tower.
He said he has an approved design for 15 storeys.
Sheikh Abdul Mannan, director of Rajuk, said the design could not be authentic, as there was no rule allowing buildings above six storeys on residential plots in Uttara Model Town back then.
The design Kashem showed is for a residential building, and it bears signatures of Rajuk officer Shamsur Rahman, member Nasir Uddin, and assistant engineer Zahid Hossain Khan, none of whom is with the agency anymore.
The state minister for housing said he will pursue a legal course to rectify those unauthorised constructions.
Rajuk Chairman Nurul Huda said he sent a list of illegal buildings with various extents of violations to the attorney general, including the four buildings discussed in this report.
The list was sent in pursuance of a special bench of the High Court which would expeditiously adjudicate cases related to violations of approved building designs, he added.

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