Grabbing goes unabated
Since the political government took over a vested quarter has gobbled up a large portion of the Gulshan-Banani and Gulshan-Baridhara lakes in the capital in the last six months in connivance with Rajuk officials, sources said.
The grabbers include a sitting High Court (HC) judge, real estate developers, retired government officials, a former UN official, relatives of an army officer and a ward commissioner.
Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), the custodian of the city's water bodies, has been playing the role of a silent spectator despite ministerial instructions to stop encroachment.
Rampant encroachments on those lakes are on despite officials assigned by Rajuk to protect it under the Gulshan Lake Development and Conservation Project.
Project Director (PD) engineer Zahid Hasan Faruqi said, “I cannot talk about it without the permission of the chairman.”
As many as 20 powerful land grabbers are filling up the Gulshan-Baridhara lake on the Shahjahadpur Jheelpar end just next to the south of Mariam Tower-1 in violation of the wetland conservation act.
Grabbers are also active at Karail T&T colony point of the Gulshan-Banani Lake.
FM Abdul Haq Bhuiyan and his mother-in-law Sufia Begum together have filled an eight-katha area in the lake with earth.
The lake is identified as a lake in the Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan (DMDP) and the layout of the lake is in accordance with the Wetland Conservation Act, said Rajuk town planning officials.
A grabber at the end of the Gulshan Road no-23/C has constructed a six-storey building on the lake without any approval from Rajuk.
Land filling has also been going on at the end of the Ice-cream Factory Road at south Badda in broad daylight for last couple of months.
Despite repeated attempts, Rajuk Chairman Md Nurul Huda could not be contacted for his comment.
Public Works Minister Abdul Mannan Khan said, “I have repeatedly instructed Rajuk to stop it. I will look into the matter right now.”
For the last two months, encroachers at Shahjahadpur Jheelpar have embarked on rampant earth filling along with construction of fresh makeshift structures and boundary walls encroaching upon the lake without any permission from the Rajuk.
During a visit to the site on June 23, this correspondent found 'caretakers' are all busy with dumping fresh earth and erecting boundary walls, despite there being a High Court (HC) stay in effect.
The site is earmarked as part of the lake in the Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan (DMDP) and in the lake's layout as per the wetland conservation act, said Rajuk town planning section officials.
Justice Abu Tarikh, a sitting HC judge, said he had just erected a boundary wall around his small plot, adding that he had only 3.5 kathas of land out of his a total 10-katha plot as he had sold the rest.
As a number of people claiming ownership of plots on the Gulshan-Baridhara Lake filed a writ petition last month the court gave a stay order asking Rajuk not to disturb them until the demarcation of the lake, said Tarikh.
The court also barred the plot owners from carrying out any construction on the lake.
They said the site was part of an acquired property under LA case-138 in 1961. The government de-requisitioned it in 1992 without any gazette notification, they claimed.
Interestingly, most of the people claiming ownership have deeds made before de-requisition. They have also mutation records and tax receipts.
Haider Hossain of Ayub Properties said he bought a 10-katha plot of land in 1986.
Former chairman of the then Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB) Fazlur Rahman and his wife Shamim Rahman said they have a deed of the land, which was made in 1983.
Tarafdar Rabiul Islam, a former UN official, said he bought a 10-katha plot of land in 1990. One Azizur Rahman Molla claimed he owned a 5-katha plot since 1986.
Monir Hossain, brother of Dhaka City Corporation ward councillor Anwar Hossain, claimed he owned a 4-katha pplot of land there.
Alauddin Bhuiyan, one of those dumping fresh earth, claimed a 7.5-katha plot. Sonarbangla Real Estate claimed a15-katha plot. Major Aminul Hasan also claimed ownership of a plot.
Rajuk Executive Engineer (central) Ujjol Mallik said, “The Town Planning Section of Rajuk is supposed to file cases against the lake grabbers.”
Rajuk Town Planner Md Johurul Haq said that they are preparing a proposal for private land acquisition within the lake.
Rajuk's Tk 327.15 crore lake development and conservation project has been awaiting approval at the planning commission since 2003.
Of the project cost, Tk 297.42 crore has been earmarked for land acquisition, said officials.
The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in a judgment in 2003 directed Rajuk to demarcate the Gulshan-Baridhara Lake and acquire lands on its fringes for the sake of the lake's conservation.
The HC division in an order in 2006 prohibited earth filling in the lake.