Saturday, May 23, 2009

'River view' university


In a city of concrete jungle, developers with the idea of "river view" and "lake view" housing projects are making good business though most of them don't have government approval.

Now a 'river view' private university is going to join them as Uttara University has erected a signboard on the floodplain of the Turag. The signboard stands in knee- or waist-deep water seven months a year.

Amid encroachment by housing estates, private universities and refuelling stations, the tiny Turag, the major flood flow system of the capital from north to south, is being choked and reduced every day.

The river is mentioned on the papers of Water Development Board to be 218 metres in width at Mirpur point. However, years of grabbing has reduced it to less than 18 metres in width in many places.

Locals say some government officials have bought a vast swath by the river and filled it up for a housing project called Pratyasha Housing. Different other housing companies are now filling up the river elsewhere.

Uttara University has projected to buy around 20 bighas of land in Kamarpara village just beside the Tongi-Ashulia Highway and already registered 11 bighas.

This area is identified as the sub-flood flow zone in the Dhaka master plan, most of which has already been filled up as the government authorities keep a blind eye.

There is a specific law in effect -- the Open Space and Natural Water Body Conservation Act, 2000 -- which prohibits change of characteristics of any wetland.

Contacted, Dr Azizur Rahma, vice-chancellor of Uttara University, said: "Nobody is obeying the law; why are you asking me only? We are not different from others.

"Besides, the government has no right to prohibit me from developing my land," he added. "We have checked the land documents several times and are sure all our land is legal."

He added they wanted to be very 'clean' as they are going to set up a university in that wetland.

"We haven't taken any government land or encroached on any river," he claimed.

According to the law, it is prohibited to change any natural land in the capital and all municipalities for conservation of all playgrounds, open space, parks and natural reservoirs.

If anyone violates the law, they should suffer five years in prison and may also be fined up to Tk 50,000.

Unfortunately, the law is hardly enforced, apparently encouraging the encroachers to repeat their offence again and again.

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