The conflicts in this area are about development of an unauthorized housing project by a private realtor, advertisement for selling of plots therein, grabbing of private and public lands, filling up of wetlands, violation of Master Plan and laws relating private housing project.
In Bangladesh, the rate of loss of wetlands in the Capital Dhaka alone has been recorded as 32.57% in the period 1960-2008. In the survey done in 2013 for preparing the Master Plan for the Capital, only 6.65% of land has been recorded as wetlands that was 9.57% in 2006. A so-called township Ashiyan City spreading over 1650 acres (an area far beyond the ceiling given in Bangladesh Land Holding Limitation Order, 1972) was being developed in the mouzas of Uttar Khan, Dakkhin Khan, Barua and Bauthar in the north of Capital Dhaka by a realtor filling up vast area of flood plains. Regular media advertisement for selling of plots in the unauthorized project was continuing although local people recorded series of complaints against the realtor for land grabbing. The complaints of the local people were turned down by the law enforcing agencies and in some instances, they were even criminalized by the realtors. The local land office carried out an inquiry about the allegations of wetland filling up and grabbing of private lands by the realtor and in a report dated 26 October, 2011, stated clearly that the realtor had filled up 230.46 acres of land for ‘A’ block of its so-called Ashiyan City although he could only give information about lands measuring 43.11 acres. The report suggested grabbing of the 198 acres of private and public lands by the realtor. Government agencies fined the realtor for filling up of wetlands and also filed case on the same ground.
Subsequently, the agencies dealing with environment and town planning gave conditional approval to the housing project mentioning differing figures as to land.
A Writ Petition (No. 17182 of 2012) was filed by seven environmental, land and human rights organizations challenging the legality of the project and the authorizations given to the same by the government agencies despite their own findings about wetland filling up and land grabbing. Judgment given by a special bench on 16 January, 2014 declared the authorizations and the project illegal. On 3 September, 2015 a review petition (No. 19 of 2015) was field by the realtor on the ground that ‘after conclusion of the hearing of the writ petition but before the delivery of the judgment’, the realtor applied to the Deputy Commissioner on 07.01.2014 seeking permission for development of its project on 1197.00 acres of land, and on the very date of the judgment, i.e., 16 January, 2015, received the approval. The review petition was allowed by the special bench and the earlier judgment was set aside. The seven Writ Petitioners filed an appeal on behalf of the local people against such contradictory stands of the special bench that basically reversed its own judgment. On appeal, the Judgment passed on the review petition has been stayed.
It is apprehended that a long battle is to be fought for upholding the rights of the poor land-owners and for restoring the wetlands already filled up by the realtor.