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     Volume 6 Issue 32 | August 17, 2007 |

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'If you want to test the depth of water don't use both feet'


It is encouraging that illegal portions of the Rangs Bhaban in the capital are being demolished. Mind my word, this will become a legendary tale, akin to an episode from yesteryears' Thakur Ma'r Jhuli; it is that much unbelievable given our context that an unlawful action, even it be enshrined in concrete, has one day got to come down.

It was however unpalatable that several offices with investments in crores and many having naught to do with the 'wrong doings' of the building malik were compelled to pack their heavy bags overnight. The haste to hammer down what, over the years, became a monument of people's wrath smacked of personal abhorrence in the garb of just governance.

One cannot but condemn the quite unnecessary death of a demolishing worker, a sacrifice to wanton enthusiasm. Safety has to be the prime concern as the razing down continues. Concerned authorities may do well to adopt the parallel measures, such as commencing with required negotiations and paperwork for the proposed road, and not stall the project by taking steps sequentially where not obligatory.

It is appreciated that the government has plans to build a much-needed road by 'acquiring' the land and the six-storied building that shall remain after 'three months', as uttered by RAJUK officials as the time to be taken to undress and amputate the controversial building. An educated guess is that it might take longer.

It is demoralising that over a hundred land and building owners stand vigil along the planned vehicular route behind Rangs Bhaban, if the Old Airport Road be the front. One of them appeared on TV against the backdrop of the noisy tearing down, demanding due compensation at existing 'commercial' rate, should their land too be acquired in public interest.

That has not been served over the years by public servants at RAJUK. There are (alphabetically speaking) architects, administrative officers, authorised officers, engineers, inspectors, and planners, as well as the successive Chairmen and the Board Members, who were witness to the building spiralling up beyond that mandated; and responsible. But, hello! None of them have been named in public.

Who signed the sanction? Which RAJUK Board okayed the project? Who were the Works Ministers from planning permission to completion of construction? What did the inspector report?

It was heartening to learn from one of their apparently jubilant colleagues that some of them have indeed been 'suspended', which often means that they have been taken out of circulation for the time being in order to protect them from public fury, and from any high-level scheme to transform them into scapegoats. The high, low and the medium should all be demolished, if only as a (not-to-be followed) example for others, just as it is expected the truncated Rangs Bhaban shall serve as a reminder to the aberrant all.

It is inspiring that the government has further identified several more buildings, which have emerged on the wrong side of the law. The buildings will be brought down to the permitted height.

It is confusing till now what fate awaits those buildings, major and minor, private and public, which have violated setback rules, meaning they have not left as much space from the boundary wall as is required by law. For instance, a shopping centre is required to leave at least 2.5 metres (eight feet) form an adjoining residential plot. But can RAJUK show us one? Demolishing them on roads circling Dhanmandi and other residential area will make the area look clean, if not as open as when the plots were first allotted. Almost the entire Uttara will have to have the sides of its buildings trimmed. Banani is no better. And the less said about the rest of the city the better.

The encouraging thing is that if we can really implement the building rules, even the old 1996 one, and punish all owners who have encroached on the mandatory open space within their plot, Dhaka will become a clean city, allowing proper ventilation and daylight into rooms where people live, sleep and eat, where our children are growing up.

It is saddening that learned architects and engineers have also succumbed to the business of the time. Almost none of the foul buildings, and the city, nay the country is full of them, would have been possible without professional support. The first window to stop such illegalities in building construction is that of the consultant, and they have failed us miserably. Blaming the greedy owner is not good enough because without expert help he, for example, would not know that his upper storey balcony can overhang on the land that is supposed to be kept open from hell to heaven.

This is the right time to recall a wall lekhani in Shantinagar (written in Bangla): People who take money by delaying file work and those who take it at gunpoint are both terrorists.

So what is the justification of the title of this article? None, perhaps! Everything does not have to be. Everything is not. But then again, please do not try it.

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