Soccer promised in restricted wetlands | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 23, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 23, 2009

Soccer promised in restricted wetlands

Bashundhara Group's offer for 2 stadiums shocks Rajuk

Satellite image of the city's Bashundhara area where the Group's Chief Ahmed Akbar Sobhan promised to build another stadium for Bangladesh Football Federation ignoring the restriction on building any structure in wetlands and flood flow zones. Google Image

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The lands, on which Bashundhara Group Chief Ahmed Akbar Sobhan alias Shah Alam promised two football stadiums for Bangladesh Football Federation, are mostly part of protected wetlands and flood flow zones, which cannot be legally used for building anything on them, according to Rajuk sources.
Shah Alam promised the lands for the two stadiums from his Bashundhara Baridhara Project area near the Balu River, and from the Riverview Project near the Buriganga River, both under Bashundhara Group's real estate development company, East West Property Development (Pvt) Ltd, and both of which are mostly in protected flood flow zones and wetlands.
Riverview is unauthorised and it cannot get the authorisation without amending the laws related to protected wetlands and Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan (DMDP), while Bashundhara-Baridhara Project has only partial authorisation.
According to DMDP, most of the areas of both projects are designated as flood flow zones and wetlands, and the government cannot approve housing projects on any of those lands under the Wetland Conservation Act 2000, and the Rules for Land Development for Private Housing Project 2004, said Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) officials and experts.
"Except 305 acres of area under Bashundhara-Baridhara Project, neither Basundhara Baridhara Extension nor Riverview is approved under the Rules for Land Development for Private Housing Project 2004," said a Rajuk official.
Actually, Bashundhara Group intends to build the football stadiums either on government lands, or by filling up canals or sections of the rivers or the flood flow zones within the project areas, to make it a credential for later, for backing up the company's demand for legitimising its illegal projects, the sources said.
Ahmed Akbar Sobhan, chairman of Basundhara Group, on April 12 during a ceremony for a Tk 4.5 crore deal signing with Bangladesh Football Federation in Kurmitola Golf Club of the capital, promised to give the football federation 10 bighas of land in each of his Bashundhara-Baridhara Project and Riverview Project.
For a decade, illegal housing projects have been destroying protected wetlands and flood flow zones clearly earmarked in DMDP, said experts.
Filling of wetlands and flood flow zones with earth by real estate developers is not only ushering in an imminent environmental disaster, but also is consistently choking the capital with perennial waterlogging and a mess in sewer management, the experts added.
Prof Muzaffer Ahmad, chairman of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), said certain special interest quarters might have worked as liaison between the immediate past National Sports Council (NSC) chairman, who is also the army chief, and the Bashundhara Group chairman, who is a convicted individual.
Riverview Project has lands that were developed by filling sections of the Buriganga River, protected wetlands, and sub-flood-flow zone, said the experts.
"It is just an attempt to get away with illegality, corruption, and unethical activities, by offering sponsorship for promotion of the country's sports," Prof Muzaffer said.
East West Property has not even submitted any plan to Rajuk yet for its Riverview Project while Bashundhara-Baridhara Extension from F block to L block got only conditional approval on September 25, 2006.
The immediate past works minister Mirza Abbas, at the very end of BNP-led four-party coalition government's tenure, gave a conditional approval to Bashundhara-Baridhara Extension. But it became null and void, as East West Property could not even submit by the stipulated date of September 30, 2008 the layout in compliance with the preconditions set by the National Approval Committee on Private Housing Project during the immediate past caretaker government.
The approval for block A to F (only partially for blocks D and F) of Bashundhara-Baridhara Project was given before the formulation of the land development rules 2004, said Rajuk officials.
They also said cases under the wetland conservation act and private land development rules are pending against Riverview Project.
A case in connection with Riverview Project was filed in Keraniganj under the wetland protection act on July 23, 2003, and another case in connection with the same project was filed on February 8, 2007 under the land development rules 2004, said an official of Rajuk, the agency that filed both the cases.
Government officials led by Upazila Nirbahi Officer Md Aminul Islam of Keraniganj launched a drive on May 20, 2008 to reclaim public land occupied by Bashundhara Group in Hasnabad area for Riverview Housing Project.
The drive followed the filing of a case against the chairman of Bashundhara Group by Assistant Land Officer Md Zunaid Hossain of Keraniganj union last April, on charge of grabbing 61 acres of government land.
The company had earmarked government land as land of the project area and put up signboards.
The upazila assistant commissioner (land) of Keraniganj back then reportedly said Bashundhara Group illegally occupied 61 acres of government land in Hasnabad for its housing project and sold out most of it.
Deputy Managing Director of East West Property Development Tawhidul Islam however said the conditional approval for Bashundhara-Baridhara Extension has not been cancelled. "We have submitted the layout plan for Bashundhara-Baridhara Extension in compliance with all preconditions. But we have yet to get the approval."
Regarding Riverview Project, he said they have 'partially' submitted the layout plan.
"We will decide in time where the stadiums will be developed," he said.
President of Bangladesh Football Federation Kazi Salahuddin said since Bashundhara Group offered the lands as gifts, he did not check whether those are legal or illegal.
"I could not manage the time to meet the Bashundhara authorities to seek answers to all the questions, and to check the legal status and locations of the lands," he added.

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