Illegal all the way
The city corporation is constructing two commercial highrises on the land owned by Rajuk and earmarked for open car parks and other public facilities in the capital's Gulshan and Banani.
It has signed property-sharing contracts with Borak Real Estate Ltd for the 30-storey Banani Super Market and United City Twin Tower Development Ltd for the 26-storey Gulshan Centre Point.
The works are almost complete without approval from Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), the environment department and the civil aviation authority.
"In one word, these are all illegal [as per Building Construction Act and Town Improvement Act]," said Md Nurul Huda, chairman of Rajuk, the development regulatory authority of the capital city.
Rajuk more than two decades ago entrusted the Dhaka City Corporation -- now split into north and south -- with the responsibility of being the custodian of certain public facilities like parks, car park grounds and markets only in the interest of their maintenance.
The erstwhile Dhaka Improvement Trust and Rajuk developed those facilities on acquired land as part of township neighbourhoods.
The land belongs to Rajuk.
The Rajuk chairman said the city corporation did not own the land in Gulshan and Banani and its deals with the private realtors to construct the buildings were illegal.
For example, Huda said, Rajuk reclaimed an approximately 4-acre area of Gulshan central playground from the occupancy of a commercial amusement park in May this year following a Supreme Court verdict.
The DCC leased out the land to a private company.
Akhter Hussain Bhuiyan, a member of Rajuk board, said the corporation can neither sell the two properties in Gulshan and Banani nor share them with any private party as these were public facilities.
Moreover, the city corporation had disproportionately given developers the share of these properties compared to the standard fifty-fifty ratio, said sources in the real estate sector.
Under the deal, Borak was supposed to build a 14-storey Banani Super Market and Housing Complex on the site of the existing market plot No 44 with an open car parking space in its front.
The developer will get 70 percent ownership of the total 2,53,265 square feet saleable floor area.
But later Borak started constructing the 30-storey building, as the city corporation endorsed its layout beyond the purview of the contract deed. The high-rise will occupy the existing 16-katha open car park ground.
United City Twin Tower Development Ltd along with Bashundhara City Development Ltd is building the 26-storey Gulshan Centre Point super market and housing complex on a 3.75-bigha plot at Gulshan-2 roundabout.
As per contract, United will get 75 percent of around 5,07,333 square feet saleable floor area, along with proportionate land ownership.
Amin Associate Overseas Ltd, another private developer, is expected to build the 20-storey City Trade Centre on a 7-bigha plot demolishing the present two-storey market in Gulshan-1 and existing large car park ground in front of it.
Under the contract, the developer will get 73 percent of the total saleable area.
Sheikh Abdul Mannan, another member of the Rajuk board, said the issue had been raised at an inter-ministerial meeting, the point being that only an authorised officer appointed by the housing and public works ministry could grant permission for the construction of a building as per Building Construction Act.
There is no legal scope under which the DCC chief engineer as an authorised officer could give approval for the construction of a building, he said.
"But we could not take any effective legal action against the DCC high-rise buildings, as a government authority is involved with it," he added.
Development works in the capital are governed by the Building Construction Act, Town Improvement Act, Building Construction Rules, Bangladesh National Building Code and the master plan.
The housing ministry and Rajuk are custodians of these laws.
Urban experts have said all those regulatory, planning and safety laws have been violated in the case of the DCC high-rise buildings.
ASM Ismail, a retired chief architect of the government, said the DCC chief engineer in no way could give approval for the building construction.
Ismail was designated as the first authorised officer by the public works ministry to give approval for the construction of government buildings.
Brig Gen Ahsanul Haq Mian, chief engineer of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), could not say how his predecessor had approved the layout of the 30-storey building though the contract was for a 14-storey one.
About the DCC's ownership of the land, he said, "I don't know [about it]."
Nazrul Islam, chief executive officer of DNCC, said he was also unable to say how the previous administration had embarked on the schemes.
On the land ownership, he said, "I do not know whether DCC has got the land ownership from Rajuk for the two high-rise schemes."