In 2005 the city of Dhaka acquired land to construct a landfill in the area of Amin Bazar, located in the northwest of Dhaka. This was highly controversial as the area was marked as flood zone and clearly considered unsuitable for the dumping of waste, but nevertheless the project went ahead.
The Master Plan (MP) of the city has categorized the various areas of the City into 19 Spatial Planning Zones (SPZs) and has identified few areas as flood flow zones in the SPZs. The intent of earmarking certain areas as flood plains and sub flood flow zones is to protect the safety, health and welfare of the common people from negative environmental impacts within waterways and to protect and preserve natural drainage systems to ensure their continued and proper functioning. The MP has prohibited any land development for residential, commercial and industrial purposes in the flood flow zones.
Under the MP, SPZ 17.3 has been identified as a flood flow zone as the same has the flow of the River Turag and its canals. According to the MP the area should be enabled to function properly as flood plain area and a basic rural and pisciculture zone and conversion of land there should be regulated strictly in this zone. Completely deviating from the recommendations of the MP and ignoring the public use and utility of flood flow zones, respondent the Dhaka City Corporation has proposed/undertaken a project titled “Dhaka Mohanogoreer Bibhinno Elakar Obokatthamo o Paribesh Unnayan Prokolpa” (Project for Infrastructure and Environment Development of Different Areas of Dhaka City), to develop a Waste Dumping Depot for the west zone of the City and has identified privately owned agricultural lands within the active flood flow zones of Mouzas Konda and Boliurpur in Amin Bazar, Savar in SPZ 17.3 for the same. The Area selected for the Waste Dumping Depo has two villages namely Konda, Baliarpur within close proximity, where around 55,000 people live and earn their livelihood mostly from activities connected with agriculture and fisheries and who were not consulted during the design of the Project. The Dhaka City Corporation started dumping waste even before final approval for the project was given by the Planning Commission. Using its power of a public agency, the DCC started pushing other agencies for approval and flouting all legal requirements, managed to obtain conditional no objection from the environment agencies.
As waste was being dumped in the marshy lands, the villagers started facing the havoc of air, noise, and water pollution and after exhausting all possible fora for administrative relief, filed legal case against the government agencies for their failure to protect the flood flow zone and denying them their right to life, health, water, livelihood, and profession.
However, the legal battle did so far not lead to any social and environmental justice. The petition filed by the Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association (BELA) is since 2010 stuck at the High Court; in the meantime jurisdiction has changed. Although the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) claimed it had compensated farmers for their land, the amounts were considered below market prices.
As of 2019, the DNCC dumped between 2,000 and 3,000 tons of waste daily into the Amin Bazar landfill. After 12 years of dumping, the landfill does still not have an environmental clearance certificate from the Department of Environment (DoE), violating the Environment Conservation Rules, 1997. There has also not been any environmental impact assessment (EIA). Although the site has a leachate treatment plant, the DoE is not monitoring its functioning and the ponds were reported to be full. In 2017 the landfill became further extended and the DNCC is currently requesting an additional 80 acres of land in order to install a waste-to-energy plant. A DoE representative noted that it was awaiting the necessary steps by the DNCC, as required by law, and that the government organization would become more respectful to these. The DNCC in 2020 ensured that the situation at the landfill would improve over the next two years. The mentioned waste-to-energy plant and an associated enclosure of waste are likely to jeopardize the activity of dozens of waste pickers, who currently informally work at the site under precarious conditions and make a living from selling collected recyclable waste (such as bottles, plastics, cans, cardboard, metals, etc.).
As forecasted by BELA, the impacts of over ten years of waste dumping on the villagers of Konda and Baliarpur in Savar have been enormous. Although planned as a sanitary landfill, the conditions have deteriorated over the years so that the site is now de facto functioning as an open dump. The pollution has intoxicated water, air, land, and the local population, and also affected fish, insects, birds, and plants. Waste now piles up for over 30 meters and polythenes and other lightweight plastics regularly spill over to the nearby agricultural areas. Farmers with land in the surrounding area state that the land has become infertile and that not even rice is growing anymore so that some of them have left their homes and work as day laborers. Locals also report about skin diseases. Fish is frequently found dead in the river and garbage is floating on the water and, especially during the rainy season, carried far away. Theses impacts were highlighted at a 2019 inter-ministerial meeting where it was stated that the uncontrolled dumping of waste has caused huge losses in the ecosystem. Also the organization Waste Concern noted that the management of the site is far from meeting the standards of a sanitary landfill and that the damages were irreversible, calling Amin Bazar one of the world’s worst landfill sites.