Last update:
2018-04-05

BGMEA Illegal Building, Bangladesh

The BGMEA building has been declared illegal and directed to be removed by the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. This is a major victory against powerful environmental offenders and the culture of impunity.


Description:

The illegal construction of the building of the Bangladesh Garment Exporters and Manufactures Association (BGMEA) by filling up significant part of a canal named the Begun Bari Canal without conclusive ownership over land, an approved building plan, and clearances for filling up of wetlands was being criticized since the foundation of the building was laid by the then Prime Minister in 1998 Ignoring all public criticisms and grossly violating the applicable laws on building construction, urbanization and wetland protection, BGMEA continued with the construction and managed to get another Prime Minister to inaugurate the building in 2006.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:BGMEA Illegal Building, Bangladesh
Country:Bangladesh
State or province:N/A
Location of conflict:Dhaka
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Specific commodities:Urban infrastructure
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The 15 storied building has been constructed on 2 bighas (40 kathas; 0.27 hecters) of land sold to BGMEA by the Export Promotion Bureau. A total of Tk400 crore has been claimed to have been spent for constructing the building major part of which is now owned by other commercial entities to whom BGMEA sold the floors. Each floor of the building is 1856.78 square meter while the total building is about 23,932.09 square meters.

Project area:0.27 hectars
Level of Investment:Purchase of Land: 51, 76, 470.50; Construction of Building: 400 crores; Value per square foot 5OOO taka
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:The entire population of Dhaka i.e. 16 crore
Start of the conflict:02/10/2010
Company names or state enterprises:Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) from Bangladesh
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Housing and Public Works; Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Town Improvement Authority); Deputy Commissioner, Dhaka; Commissioner, Dhaka Metropolitan Police; Department of Environment; Export Promotion Bureau.
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA)
www.belabangla.org
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsThe building has been constructed on a natural canal important for the drainage of the central part of the Capital. The earth filling caused for the building resulted in loss of connectivity of the canal with other canals. It has been termed as an ‘eye sore’ by one of the Prime Ministers who inaugurated the building. While authorities tried to save the building by requiring BGMEA to construct a bridge (for the purpose of creating an approach road) in front of the building to keep the flow of the Sonargaon Lake (which indeed is Begun Bari khal) undisturbed, it has been concluded by the experts that the removal of the building is a must for the success of the Project (worth taka 1,480 crore) titled “Integrated Development of Hatir Jheel and Part of Begun Bari Khal.”
Other Health impactsNot Applicable
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Other socio-economic impacts, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsFrom environmental governance viewpoint, challenging the construction of the building has allowed testing of validity of laws not only on urban wetland conservation and building construction but also on people’s right to get environmental information and access to justice against powerful elites. The entire legal battle was fought on the basis of documents obtained through the first ever application made under the Right to Information Act, 2009 of the country. Legal challenges against the building were crucial to initiate a systematic campaign against the more than 3000 unauthorized buildings (under construction) that were being constructed in the Capital at that point of time posing definite threats to the safety of the city dwellers and challenging the sustainability of the township. While authorities listed those 3000 buildings for legal actions, precedent of the unauthorized construction as that of the BGMEA building came to their way to block effective, non-discriminatory and fair exercise of administrative powers.
From environmental governance viewpoint, challenging the construction of the building has allowed testing of validity of laws not only on urban wetland conservation and building construction but also on people’s right to get environmental information. The entire legal battle was fought on the basis of documents obtained through the first ever application made under the Right to Information Act, 2009 of the country. Legal challenges against the building were crucial to initiate a systematic campaign against the more than 3000 unauthorized buildings (under construction) that were being constructed in the Capital at that point of time posing definite threats to the safety of the city dwellers and challenging the sustainability of the township. While authorities listed those 3000 buildings for legal actions, precedent of the unauthorized construction as that of the BGMEA building came to their way to block effective, non-discriminatory and fair exercise of administrative powers.
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Land demarcation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Development of alternatives:The legal battle against the BGMEA building was initiated by a Suo Motu Rule No. 19 of 2010 issued on 3 April, 2010 by a division bench of the High Court relying on a news paper report. On directions from the Court, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) assisted the Court as amicus curie and assisted the Court in determining the followings:
A. LEGALITY OF HANDING OVER OF THE LAND TO BGMEA WHICH WAS NOT ESPOUSING ANY PUBLIC PURPOSE
B. LEGALITY OF OWNERSHIP OF BGMEA OVER THE LAND
C. DISCREPANCIES IN THE DESCRIPTION AND MEASUREMENT OF LAND
D. LEGALITY OF THE CONSTRUCTION
E. LEGAL CONSEQUENCES
By a Judgment dated 03 April, 2011, the High Court declared the BGMEA building illegal and directed its removal. It also declared the handing over of the land to BGMEA without lawful authority. The High Court further directed BGMEA to return money to those who bought flats in the building, as those transactions stand vitiated, within 12 months from the receipt of claims.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:After the Judgment was pronounced on 3 April, 2011 declaring the BGMEA building as illegal and directing its removal in 90 days, BGEMA filed appeals and reviews before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. The Association had no luck with its Leave to Appeal No. 1162 of 2013 and its Civil Review Petition No. 595 of 2016 has also been rejected. Although the Appellate Division, on 08 October, 2017, has allowed BGEMA another 6 months to continue in their premise and the building it yet to be demolished, BGEMA apparently has failed with its lobbying powers to persuade the legal system through their allies in political government. This has increased people's confidence in the formal legal system and has set a very strong precedent for advocates challenging culture of impunity.
On 2nd April 2018 the Supreme Court gave one more year to BGEMA to dismantle the building.
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Town Improvement Act, 1953; Building Construction Act, 1952; Building Construction Rules, 1996; Government Property (Recovery of Possession) Ordinance, 1970; Acquisition and Requisition of Immovable Property Ordinance, 1982; Land Acquisition Ordinance, 1894; the Environment Conservation Act, 1995; Act No. 36 of 2000; Water and Sewage Authority (WASA) Act, ….; Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan (DMDP)
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Dhaka Tribune - How long will it take to finish construction of the new BGMEA building?
[click to view]

[1] The Daily Star - BGMEA gets one year more to demolish building

April 02, 2018
[click to view]

[2] The Independent - BGMEA gets another year to demolish building

April 03, 2018
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

This media report has recorded the last order of the Appellate Division passed on the BGMEA building
[click to view]

Other documents

BGMEA Image The picture shows that the building is standing right in the middle of the canal
[click to view]

BGMEA BGMEA Judgment
[click to view]

Citizens Rights Movement(CRM) Citizens Rights Movement(CRM)-Demolition of BGMEA Bhaban Demanded 12 April 2011(httpepaper.thedailystar.netindex.phpopt=view&page=3&date=2011-04-12)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Syeda Rizwana Hasan, BELA, [email protected]
Last update05/04/2018
Comments
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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