Trade a lake for houses
The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh fills a large body of water on the eastern side of the Hajj camp in Ashkona, the capital, for a housing project for its officials and employees, in violation of a law on the conservation.
The aviation regulator did not even get permission from Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) to fill in the roughly 30-acre pond, which has long been used as a water retention pond for areas of Ashkona, Uttar Khan and Dakkhin Khan.
Experts fear that infilling such a large pond, clearly designated as a water body in Rajuk’s Detailed Area Plan (DAP), could aggravate the area’s ongoing waterlogging problem.
The Caab has been filling it with soil for four months and has already filled about half of the surface.
A recent visit by the Daily Star revealed workers were busy filling the pond with a crane. A heap of earth, piled on the already filled portions, is waiting to be dumped.
According to the Playgrounds, Open Spaces, Gardens and Water Bodies Conservation Act 2000, no one may fill bodies of water or stop the normal flow of water.
Md Ashraful Islam, Project Manager of DAP, said: “The filling of this water body will have a negative impact on areas like Ashkona, Uttar Khan and Dakkhin Khan. The pond played a vital role in retaining rainwater. the rainwater from the areas is going away?”
He said the pond is also designated as a body of water in the revised DAP but Caab did not take any No Objection Certificate (NOC) from Rajuk before starting to fill it.
Dhaka North City Corporation Ward 47 Councilor Anisur Rahman Nayeem said congestion has already worsened in those areas due to the move.
“For 50 years, the body of water has been used as a stormwater retention basin. Filling it would increase waterlogging problems,” he said.
Water bodies in and around the capital have been indiscriminately replenished in recent decades, mainly due to rapid urbanization and unplanned growth.
According to a 2019 study by the Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP), individuals, companies, property developers, organizations and even government agencies gobbled up 1,072 acres (57%) of the 1,879 acres of flood in Dhaka metropolis. areas during this decade.
Since the official publication of the city’s Detailed Area Plan (DAP) in 2010, the city center has lost 3,440 of 9,556 acres of flood zones, water retention areas and plans of water until 2019, he said.
Experts say the relentless stress on water bodies, along with the poor drainage system, exposes city dwellers to severe waterlogging even after moderate rains.
“The Dhaka master plan is not safe in the hands of the government. This is because government agencies fill the water bodies at will and tend to justify it as being done in the public interest,” said Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Chief Executive of Bangladesh. Association of Environmental Lawyers.
“If the filling of wetlands contrary to the master plan is done by the government, it does two long-term damages. First, it weakens the moral authority of the government to punish violators, and second, it devalues the penalties of the master plan , “she told the Daily Star.
Both are dangerous for a city that already ranks very low in the livability index, she added.
Adil Mohammad Khan, former secretary general of the Bangladesh Institute of Planners, said a government agency like Caab cannot violate the DAP and fill up a body of water.
“It’s an immoral practice and they can’t refill the water bodies without taking Rajuk’s NOC,” he told this newspaper.
He further said that many government agencies do not carry out proper impact assessment before undertaking development projects. As a result, they end up filling up water bodies, he said.
Adil said there was a directive from the prime minister to conserve around 12% water bodies when building any housing project in any area.
It is not only Rajuk’s duty, but Caab must also guard 12% of water bodies in areas that are under his jurisdiction, he added.
Councilor Anisur Rahman Nayeem said the municipality repeatedly asked Caab not to fill it and also informed the mayor of the DNCC.
“Caab is a government organization. If they don’t follow the Wetlands Protection Act, who will punish them? Who will hold them accountable?” He asked.
“Under the direction of the Mayor of DNCC, we dug a lake in the last two weeks on the eastern side of the Hajj camp as an alternative, to reduce the problem of waterlogging in the areas,” he said.
Selim Reza, Director General of DNCC, said they would take necessary action in this regard after getting information from the field.
Caab chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman told the Daily Star that they are implementing the housing project without affecting the environment.
“We have appointed a foreign consultant for the structural design of the housing project and work is continuing accordingly.”
Mafidur also said they were not in breach of the Playgrounds, Open Spaces, Gardens and Water Bodies Conservation Act 2000.
He said that the land on which the housing project is implemented is Caab’s own land.
“This is not Rajuk’s land,” he said.