“Powerful” owner of the illegal building than the administration!

A group of money-grubbers is turning Cox’s Bazar into a brick-and-stone Ginji city for the sake of tourism development. Building after building is also flouting the Ecological Critical Area (ECA) Act. In 2018, the High Court banned the construction of any new structure 300 meters above Cox’s Bazar beach, but it is not being followed. Many greedy businessmen are not paying attention to the proper permission of the Cox’s Bazar Development Authority (KDC) and the district administration and other institutions to construct the building.

According to sources, the government declared this area as an Environmentally Endangered Area (ECA) in 1999 to protect the biodiversity, pure waters and environment of 10,465 hectares from Cox’s Bazar beach to Teknaf beach. According to this directive, 120 km of beach from Nazirartek of Cox’s Bazar Municipality to Badr Mokam of Teknaf, 300 meters of the beach rich in jaw trees are prohibited for development and 500 meters are protected areas. Construction of all types of structures or infrastructure is prohibited in this area.

Clearance from the Civil Aviation Authority was also given in 2017 for the construction of a 10-storey building under the circuit house construction project at Labani Point. But seeing that such a thing is happening in ECA, against a writ made by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) at that time, the ‘Development Plan for Cox’s Bazar Town and Sea up to Teknaf’ as per the master plan mentions the first 300 meters of the municipality from the mid-tide line as a ‘no development zone’. The High Court directed that no structure can be constructed in this area.

After that, Cox’s Bazar district administration applied to cancel the allotment of more than half a hundred plots in the area identified as ECA, but which had not been constructed. In view of this, the concerned ministry also canceled them. Besides, the Cox’s Bazar Development Authority (COOK) also campaigned to refrain from constructing any structures within 300 meters of the beach (in 2017-2018). The construction permission taken earlier was also declared to be cancelled.

After that, there is no precedent for any new construction to come up from Kalatali to Labani Point, but since the beginning of this year, construction work is going on in several plots in these areas. Due to the indifference of the administration, a group of workers have been carrying out construction work day and night on the vacant land between Kalatali’s star hotel Ocean Paradise and Divine Eco-resort for the last one and a half months. Dozens of workers are working non-stop to build a wall around the sand beach at a distance of one and a half to two hundred feet. After paving the lower basement, the work of fixing the pillars and roof iron to make the first floor is going on fast. Seeing that the construction work is going on in this plot, it has been alleged that soil filling work is being carried out for the purpose of constructing structures in several empty plots of the same line. Environmentalists believe that the High Court’s directive to protect the ECA is falling on its face.

The workers are reluctant to divulge the name of the owner of the plot where the construction work is going on. Nuruzzaman, the engineer supervising the work, said that all the work documents are with the chief supervising engineer of the project, Mizan. He took me to his (engineer Mizan’s) office in the northern suburbs of Laldighi in Cox’s Bazar to show them. The document shown against the work is the approved plan signed by the district administration in 2015 and the executive engineer of public works in 2016. Engineer Mizan said to the question whether it is possible to build the building with the previous approval after the Cox’s Bazar Development Authority (COAC) started its activities independently at the end of 2016, as the work did not start as per the rules, Engineer Mizan said – we are working by talking to the authorization officer of COCOC.

In this regard, the former chairman of Kouk, who served for three terms from Yatra, Lt. Colonel Forkan Ahmed said that the Deputy Commissioner used to serve as the Chairman and Secretary of the Public Works Executive Engineer until Kouk went on an independent journey. Then the building was constructed in the municipal area with the permission obtained from Cox’s Bazar Municipality. In spite of obtaining permission from the municipality, the plans of those plots where the construction work has not been completed in 2016 until the start of individual activities, subject to on-site investigation, the plans of those plots were declared cancelled. From 2017 onwards, it is mandatory to take permission from Kuk and other related institutions to build any new establishment. However, the ECA announced by the government and the High Court does not allow any body to grant permission. Since the plot in question was then vacant, there was no question of canceling the previous permission and obtaining any new permission.

Written on the plot wall, the owner of the land is Alhaj Emdad Ullah, chairman of Elegance Development Properties Limited. Talked to him on the mobile number given there. He initially claimed that he was working with permission, but when attention was drawn to the High Court’s ban on the cancellation of auto permits in 2015 and 2016 and the construction of any structure within 300 meters from the sandy beach, he said, “I did some work in the beginning.” Later work was stopped due to financial inconsistencies – now being resumed. My place is not subject to court restrictions.

But after telling the media that the construction workers have started new construction work by digging beige for the last one month, Emdad Ullah said, “We have already held a meeting with the Deputy Commissioner and the concerned people of Kouk.” He said that the preliminary talks have been held with them – the work permit will be finalized in a couple of days, he wants the cooperation of the media workers to advance the work.

There has been a huge backlash as construction of multi-storied buildings continues day and night without any hindrance in the EC area in defiance of the High Court directive. Complaints are being raised – for some unknown reason, some responsible person or someone from the district administration is helping to continue the construction.

However, Deputy Commissioner of Cox’s Bazar Muhammad Shaheen Imran said that it is impossible to construct a building in Cox’s Bazar without the permission of Kouk. There is no question of us giving illegal assistance to anyone. I do not know anyone with this name (Emdad) – I have not met or talked to anyone about construction of buildings in EC area.

A message was sent to the WhatsApp number of Commodore Mohammad Nurul Abshar, chairman of Cox’s Bazar Development Authority (COA), to inquire about the complaint of construction of buildings with silent cooperation. He wrote in one sentence on the replay, OK – I’ll look into it.

However, some secretary. Abul Hasem told the media that the matter is within the knowledge of the chairman. He will proceed as he directs.