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Published: Thursday, June 13, 2013

6 Conditionally Legal Projects

Tawfique Ali

 

 

An influential realtor fills the Satarkul Canal in Badda with dirt so that the land could be used for a housing project. This is one of half a dozen housing projects being implemented destroying wetlands, flood plains, croplands and rural homesteads, mostly on the capital’s eastern fringe. Yet, all of them have approvals from the authorities. The photo was taken last week.

 Photo: Sk Enamul Haq

 

The housing ministry is re-examining controversial approvals to half a dozen illegal private housing schemes of powerful realtors.

“We have asked Rajdhani Unnyan Kartripakkha [Rajuk] to check whether the realtors have complied with all the required pre-conditions,” Khondaker Showkat Hossain, secretary to housing and public works ministry, told The Daily Star a week back.

“The approvals would be cancelled if any anomaly is found,” he said.
“In most cases, land procurement at private housing schemes is questionable,” the secretary added. “They are so influential that individual land owners often are forced to give way to them.”


But the irony is that no significant progress has been achieved since the scrutinisation process started over six months ago.


The reassessment is being done after a year following recommendations of the parliamentary standing committee on housing and public works ministry.

Meanwhile, the secretary and Rajuk chairman contradicted each other over the ground for their recommendation for the approval.

To approve the illegal schemes at the behest of the state minister for housing, the ministry bypassed the parliamentary committee and unilaterally altered relevant rules incorporating lenient provisions in May last year.


They approved the schemes flouting private housing development rules of 2004 though officials concerned of Rajuk pointed out that some realtors lacked authentic layout plans, according to the parliamentary committee’s proceedings.

The ministry, during the middle and late last year, gave partial and conditional approvals to BDDL Natundhara, United City, Swarnali Abashan, Green Model Town, Bashundhara and Ashiyan City.

The schemes have been illegally developed destroying wetlands, flood plains, croplands and rural homesteads mostly on the capital’s eastern fringe over the past decade. The projects are still ongoing.

The High Court in June, 2011 declared these schemes, along with many others, illegal and directed the government to scrap those.

Asaduzzaman Khan, head of a parliamentary sub-committee that investigated the controversial approvals, told The Daily Star that the ministry had approved some schemes which lacked required land ownership.

Of the housing schemes, at least five realtors had sold out plots before obtaining any approval and thus lost the eligibility to seek legitimacy, he said.


“We have recommended that the ministry stall the sale of plots of these schemes until they comply with the legal requirement, cancel their conditional approval and publish their actual legal status in mass media,” he added.

State Minister for Housing Abdul Mannan Khan told The Daily Star that Rajuk and the secretary-led committee misled him by suppressing the facts at the time of giving approval to the illegal housing schemes.

The committee and Rajuk informed him that the real estate developers complied with laws for getting approval of their schemes. But now they say that they actually did not, the minister said.
He would take administrative action against them, he added. But until May 20, he could not say whether any action has been taken against the said officials.

“They forwarded the realtors’ applications either without proper scrutiny or under the influence of some underhand deal with them,” the minister said, adding “I looked into the applications after approval and found the anomalies.”


While giving approval to the schemes in September last year, Mannan Khan, however, told The Daily Star that the realtors would have sued him if he had not approved their schemes.

Documents show that he argued with the members of the parliamentary committee, saying he had amended the rules to make it “implementable” and dispel private realtors’ adverse perception about the government.

About misleading the minister, the housing secretary said Rajuk directly placed the realtors’ applications for approval at the committee, which was led by the minister himself, instead of going through the secretarial committee.


Rajuk Chairman Md Nurul Huda contradicted him, saying, “We forwarded the applications for scrutiny by the technical committee headed by the public works secretary.”


“Though such schemes did not comply with the law, we recommended their approval apprehending that otherwise the realtors would accuse us of corruption,” Huda said.


Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, said the government should have taken legal action against these realtors, but instead, it rewarded them with the controversial approval violating the law.

 

Sources: thedailystar


 

 

 

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