Vol. 5 Num 351 Wed. May 25, 2005  
Star City

Rampant illegal earth-filling on Hatirjheel

Owners of three CNG filling stations and a former ward commissioner are illegally filling up a large area on the Hatirjheel-Begunbari canal, the last remaining natural waterbody of Dhaka.

Three other land developers have already filled up over 20 acres of the low-lying waterbody while another 50 acres faced encroachment, according to a survey conducted by the Land Reform Board (LRB). The encroachment and land-grabbing by developers and individuals have already shrunk the canal through which one third of the city's sewage flow into rivers.

The Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) is planning to construct an elevated road on the canal so that flood water retention facilities and drainage are not hampered. The plan costing around Tk 530 crore is waiting the Ecnec (Executive Committee for National Economic Council) approval. The environment friendly elevated road was designed instead of the 'at grade road' to save the waterbody. But it is believed that the delay in implementation of the project was giving land grabbers the chance to target some 237.

64 acres of Hatirjheel wetland.

"If the land is filled up in this way, the purpose of constructing an elevated road would become meaningless as the water retention point would be blocked," said a senior official of the DCC.

The CNG filling stations Khandokar Filling Station, Clean Fuel Distribution and Ahmed CNG and Filling have already filled up land on both sides of Shahid Tajuddin Ahmed Sarani. A number of signboards have gone up at the site claiming that the land had been allocated by Bangladesh Railway.

Sources said that principle secretary of the PMO Kamal Siddique had directed the concerned officials to protect the waterbody from encroachment and to take action against the grabbers. But the situation remains unchanged.

A cooperatives society called Uttaron has already constructed a building on encroached land. Locals alleged that former ward commissioner Mokhlesur Rahman, who is also the president of Uttaron, had directed the construction. Rahman is the chief-accused in the Khaled Imam murder case. Imam was the husband of present ward commissioner Shamila Imam.

"The main office building is ready. The society will start operating from this building within a month," said a newly joined staff of Uttaron.

This correspondent visited the site on May 18 and found that Titas Gas had dumped two truckloads of mud on the waterbody in violation of the Wetland and Open Spaces Protection Act 2000.

"Not only Titas, other utility service providers also dump garbage and earth from road-digging on this wetland," said a DCC official.

Hatirjheel stretches from the Sonargaon Hotel to the Rampura Bridge and it is the main component of the drainage system of the adjoining areas like Panthapath, Karwan Bazar and Sonargaon Road. Waterlogging could become a serious problem if the wetland is filled up. Studies have revealed that nearly 38 percent of the surface drain water of the city flows through Hatirjheel and into the River Balu.

A structure being constructed on illegally filled land on the Hatirjheel-Begumbari canal. PHOTO: STAR