Mega Housing Project declared Illegal, Bangladesh

The Supreme Court finally directed to abandon an illegal mega housing project in Dhaka city and restore a flood flow zone


Description

The Master Plan (MP) of Dhaka (otherwise described as DMDP-Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan (1995-2015) is a comprehensive development plan for future development of Dhaka City. It has been prepared under Section 73 of the Town Improvement Act, 1953 with the objectives of forming a frame work of development planning, preparation of sectoral master plans and feasibility studies for metropolitan infrastructure elements lacking development policies. The MP has identified few areas of Dhaka as wetlands that include flood flow zones. The intent of earmarking certain areas as flood flow zones is to protect the safety, health and welfare of the general public from negative environmental impacts within waterways and to protect and preserve natural drainage systems to ensure their continued and proper functioning. Any unauthorized interference with the flood flow zones would have devastating environmental effect and hence the MP recommended that the areas should be enabled to function properly as flood plains/sub flood flow zones and maintain basic rural nature. According to the MP, land development for residential, commercial and industrial development, including raising the level of land through land filing is strictly prohibited in the flood flow zones.

See more...
Basic Data
NameMega Housing Project declared Illegal, Bangladesh
CountryBangladesh
ProvinceN/A
SiteDhaka City
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 CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe MP of the City identified few moujas (land administrative areas) as Flood Flow Zones. These zones included the moujas of Bilamalia and Baliarpur near Amin Bazar in Savar located on the south of Dhaka-Aricha Road and at the west of the Amin Bazar Bridge. A private company limited MMDL started earth filling in the two moujas in 2003 to develop a satellite township called “Modhumoti Model Town” (MMT). It also started giving regular advertisements in media offering to sell housing plots in the Project.

It was first on 15-11-94 that a letter was written by Metro Makers and Developers Limited (MMDL) informing the government actors that it intended to implement a housing project in the Bilamalia mouja over 100 bighas of land. Subsequently on two occasions, permission for development of housing project was sought by MMDL on 25-10-2001 and 18-7-2001 but both applications were rejected by Rajuk- the Capital Improvement Authority. Despite such rejection, MMDL, like other private realtors, continued with earth filling for its unauthorized Project and over the years, started giving different figures as to areas under its possession for developing the so-called MMT. Starting from a 100 standard bigha, MMDL’s final claim about land went upto 222.577 hectares. As per claims of MMDL, it created and sold 5,550 plots in MMT.

On 9 December, 2003, Rajuk published in the leading dailies warning general people not to buy plots in the MMT as there is no scope to approve the Project for its location on Flood Flow Zone. As Rajuk took no step to effectively stop MMDL from continuing with earth filling and selling of plots, the Project was legally challenged before the High Court Division of the Supreme Court. Although initially a bench of the High court granted a stay order (a restraining order like injunction) against the implementation of the Project on 15-08-2004, another bench of the High Court vacated the stay order on 03-10-2004 allowing MMDL to continue with its project work. While a High Court Division specially assigned by the Chief Justice to hear the case gave ambiguous and contradictory judgment (on 27-07-2005) declaring the Project illegal but the rights of the plot purchasers legally tenable, appeals were field before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

After prolonged hearing of the case which was also joined by 50 plot purchasers, the MMT Project was finally declared illegal by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court on 07-08-2012. By then, earth filling in the Project site was already completed.

The Supreme Court, in its landmark Judgment directed MMDL to (i) restore the Flood Flow Zone to its original position, (ii) pay back the money taken form the buyers it has duped and return twice the amount of money taken for registration of plots, (ii) surrender lands held in excess of the land holding ceiling prescribed in law. All these directions are yet to be implemented.
Project Area (in hectares)222
Level of Investment (in USD)23,530,000
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Populationaround 40,000,000
Start Date09/12/2003
End Date07/08/2012
Company Names or State Enterprises
Relevant government actorsMinistries of Housing and Public Works; Land; Environment and Forest; Capital Improvement Authority (Rajuk- Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha (RAJUK); Director General, Department of Environment; Deputy Commissioner, Dhaka; Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB); Managing Director, Metro Makers & Developers Ltd.
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersBangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA)

www.belabangla.org
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Forms of MobilizationInvolvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage)
OtherDisappearance of natural wetlands as that of flood flow zones has congested the city drainage system of Dhaka and has lead to severe form of urban flooding in last consecutive years. Filling up of the last remaining wetlands of an extremely congested and concretized City has not only taken away the last lines of blue, but has also caused alarming drop down of ground water level. This has disturbed the supply of potable water in Dhaka as 70% of the same comes from ground water .
Health ImpactsVisible: Other environmental related diseases
OtherDue to indiscriminate and unregulated filling up flood flow zones, Dhaka City has faced and is continuing to face extreme urban flooding that increases the risks of water borne disease particularly for the slum dwellers.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
OtherCommunities traditionally dependent on fishing in the flood flow zone have lost their source of income and livelihood. Similarly, the wetland that was used as paddy field during dry season is also gone meaning loss of job for local farmers. Despite legal prohibitions, anti-environment and illegal projects like the Modhumoti Model Towns are implemented because the realtors manage to buy off the regulatory system. The conversion of the area from a flood flow zone to an urban development scheme has certainly taken away yet another buffer zone from the inhabitants of Dhaka, the densest Capital of the World.
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Project cancelled
Development of AlternativesA public interest litigation in the form of Writ Petition (4604 of 2004) and subsequently Civil Appeals (Nos. 253, 255, 256) were filed seeking declaration of the MMT Project as illegal and directions on government actors to restore the Flood Flow Zone of Bilamalia and Boliarpur moujas to their original position.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.By a judgment dated 07-08-2012 the Project was declared illegal and MMDL and Rajuk were directed to remove earth and compensate the buyers, MMDL has filed a review application in the Supreme Court where reviews are very rarely allowed (1%). No action has yet been taken (even after 5 years since the judgment was pronounced) to remove the earth and restore the flood flow zone as directed by the Court. Instead, MMLD has reportedly aligned with some political high ups in power and is seen constructing few buildings in the filled up lands and also displaying signboards at site with a different name for the project. Although such deceitful practices are legally curable, the prevailing political atmosphere is too unpredictable and the law and order situation quite volatile and unfavourbale to resist well-connected, moneyed, and muscled monsters as that of MMDL.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

The Master Plan (MP) of Dhaka (otherwise described as DMDP-Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan (1995-2015) is a comprehensive development plan for future development of Dhaka City. It has been prepared under Section 73 of the Town Improvement Act, 1953 with the objectives of forming a frame work of development planning, preparation of sectoral master plans and feasibility studies for metropolitan infrastructure elements lacking development policies. The MP has identified few areas of Dhaka as wetlands that include flood flow zones. The intent of earmarking certain areas as flood flow zones is to protect the safety, health and welfare of the general public from negative environmental impacts within waterways and to protect and preserve natural drainage systems to ensure their continued and proper functioning. Any unauthorized interference with the flood flow zones would have devastating environmental effect and hence the MP recommended that the areas should be enabled to function properly as flood plains/sub flood flow zones and maintain basic rural nature. According to the MP, land development for residential, commercial and industrial development, including raising the level of land through land filing is strictly prohibited in the flood flow zones.



Frustrating the recommendations of the MP, land development in flood flow zones was going unabated. This resulted in serious drainage congestion subjecting Dhaka to unprecedented urban flooding in 2005 and of course in subsequent years (Nazim Bhai, Photo diyen). Most of these land development projects were lacking approval and were being implemented in areas was beyond the land ceiling prescribed in law. In almost all cases of township development by private realtors, allegations of land grabbing were common.



It was when a private developer started filling up lands in flood flow zone falling under Spatial Planning Zone 17.3 of the MP that a legal battle was first launched against such unregulated developments. It was alleged that (i) the “Modhumoti Model Town” (MMT) Project was being implemented in Flood Flow Zone, defying the restrictions imposed in the MP, (ii) that for the Project the private company Metro Makers and Developers Limited (MMDL) brought under its possession lands crossing legal ceilings, (iii) that the project was unauthorized, (iv) that the government actors have failed to restrain MMDL from earth filling in the Flood Flow Zone for its unauthorized Project, (v) that the government agencies responsible for implementing and defending the MP have categorically failed to protect the Flood Flow Zones form illegal earth filling thus jeopardising public safety and interest, (vi) that such massive unauthorized changes in the landscape of the City were causing drainage congestions and would lead to catastrophic urban flooding in future, and (vii) that third party purchasers couldn’t claim any right in an unauthorized and illegal Project.
[click to view]

Links

Modhumoti Illegal
[click to view]

Other Documents

Modhumoti Judgement
[click to view]

Dhaka City after rain
[click to view]

Modhumoti Model Town
[click to view]

Modhumoti Model Town
[click to view]

Modhumoti Model Town Layout Plan
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorSyeda Rizwana Hasan, BELA, [email protected]
Last update14/12/2018
Comments