Revive wetlands within 6 months
Modhumoti Model Town in Amin Bazar on the outskirts of the capital. The town was built by filling up a wetland and the Supreme Court yesterday ordered the real-estate company to restore the wetland and repay, in double, people who bought plots from it. Photo: File
The Supreme Court has directed Metro Makers and Developers Ltd to restore within six months the wetlands of Savar where it implemented illegal housing scheme Modhumoti Model Town.
In case of MMDL's failure to comply with the order, the court asked the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) to take up the work at the company's expense.
MMDL has also been directed to refund its customer double the money it had charged for each plot of land, including the registration cost, in six months.
The Appellate Division of the SC in the verdict also ruled that a family or a body cannot acquire more than 100 bighas of land as per President's Orders No-98 of 1972.
The apex court released the full text of the 159-page verdict yesterday, 11 months after it had declared in the short verdict MMDL's project in Bilamalia and Bailarpur mouzas illegal.
The company had developed the housing project filling in 550 acres of wetlands identified as floodplain in the 1997 Dhaka City Master Plan.
On August 7 last year, the SC came up with the short verdict after hearing five separate appeals filed in 2009 challenging different portions of a 2005 High Court verdict.
Of the appeals, MMDL filed two while its land purchasers, Rajuk and Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela) each filed one.
On July 27, 2005, the HC declared the Modhumoti Model Town project "unauthorised, illegal and against public interest". The court had also directed authorities to protect the interest of around 3,500 plot purchasers, but it did not say how.
In the full text of the verdict, the SC said the fundamental rights of third party (plot) purchasers cannot override the fundamental rights of overwhelming number of residents of the metropolis under the constitution of the republic.
"Though the third party purchasers may not be treated as bona fide, yet it is a fact that they have been roped in by Metro Makers by misrepresentation that permission for the development work had been obtained from Rajuk and justice demands that they should be compensated," said the verdict.
It also observed, "If these lands are filled up it will cause serious problem in draining out water resulting from flood and rain and the affected people can compel the authorities through judicial review to take steps to preserve and protect health, environment and ecology in the Metropolitan areas."
Bela Chief Executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan told The Daily Star that the SC verdict would help the government stop illegal activities of the housing companies, including encroaching on and filling in low lands, and save the environment.
Although it was posted on the website, MMDL's lawyer ABM Siddiqur Rahman Khan said he was not aware of the full text of the SC verdict.