Drive against illegal structures  

Published: August 24, 2018 22:16:19 | Updated: August 26, 2018 22:07:35

It is bewildering to know that only 45,288 or 10.88 per cent out of a total 416,091 structures constructed in the city area under the jurisdiction of the Rajuk (Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakhya)  received due approval of their designs. This happened during the nine years alone between 2008 when the building code was framed and the year 2017. In between the Dhaka Area Plan (DAP) 2010 came into existence and since then 4,790 structures were constructed until the physical feature survey of 2015-16. Of these structures only 0.06 per cent obtained permission and 99.94 per cent did not bother to get any permission. What then happened before that period is anybody's guess. Although Rajuk officials have tried to explain that many in the union councils and municipalities did not even know about the DAP and most of those local bodies were unaware that those were under the Rajuk's jurisdiction. Now whose duty is it to inform that the DAP must be respected and which areas fall within its limit?

Even then the small portion of approval hardly justifies the authority that the Rajuk exerts. It obliquely refers to the near total lack of any initiative or exercise of power by the Rajuk to enforce the rules and regulations in terms of construction. It is good to know that the authority is no longer issuing certificates for occupancy. In the nine years under survey, 173 structures were issued such certificates. Now the question is immaterial if non-compliance with the DAP requirements or building codes is deliberate or out of ignorance. It will be considered a violation of laws and rules and accordingly the Rajuk is all set to take action. That much of the blame lies with the housing authority is evident from the tacit admission by its spokesperson. He admits that the previous list of permitted structures was faulty. Lack of consistency bedevilled the occupancy versus land use rules.

Now the city development authority has made its intention clear that it will demolish the unauthorised structures in the city areas under its jurisdiction. In fact, it began such a programme from June last. It has served notice on 1,932 house owners and dismantled parts of 13 structures. Past experiences of such drives, however, are not happy enough. Stay orders from courts or opposition by influential people forced the development authority to back out. There are rare instances where buildings constructed without authorisation could be brought down.

That the Rajuk did not do its homework earlier is, however, no counterargument for the violators of building codes and DAP regulations. One hopes that the housing projects already implemented or undertaken for implementation in flood-plain areas or zones where there were once water bodies are either dismantled or cancelled. Can the Rajuk take on such realtors? Dhaka's urban mess really calls for a major operation rather than a cosmetic surgery. A symbol of illegal construction is BGME Bhaban which has been granted times twice for dismantling. If this is brought down, others will not have strong opposition to resist similar action against their unauthorised structures.

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