Housing plan on hills draws flak

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Jute ministry selects developer to build supermarket, apartments, resort on its hilly plots
Publication Date: 4 May, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Media: The Independent

The state-owned Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) is going to handover large tracts of land, including that in the hills, to private organisations with a view to increase its income, raising concerns among green groups. The textiles and jute ministry has selected a private developer, A Class Limited, to build a supermarket, residential apartments and a resort on its hilly plots in Chittagong metropolitan city, according to sources. A total of 6.79 acres of land, including 4.60 acres of hilly terrain of BJMC-owned Amin Jute Mills at Chatteswari Road, will be handed over to the private developer for the execution of the apartment project under public-private partnership (PPP), the sources said. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had given her nod to the execution of the apartment project on the mill land on March 5, they added.

However, green activists maintain that the project will destroy the local ecological balance and affect the ownership of land in the locality. They say that the hilly terrain is enveloped by a dense forest and destroying it would render a heavy toll on the environment.

Faizur Rahman Chowdhury, secretary to the textiles and jute ministry, said in his proposal that the selected company would construct a supermarket, residential apartments and a resort on 164.25 decimals of land out of a total of 679 decimals. But the Chattogram district administration has sounded a warning note by saying that the private company may implement the project by cutting down the hills once the land is handed over to it.

A proposal prepared by the jute ministry will soon be placed at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs. After the committee’s approval, the ministry will take further steps in this regard, said a senior ministry official. Faizur Rahman Chowdhury, in his proposal, also said that shares and dividends would be fixed through discussions with the private developer. The proposal states the cost of the land would be Tk 339.50 crore as per the existing market price (Tk. 50 lakh per decimal).

Kamraul Islam, general manager (GM) of Amin Jute Mills, told The Independent: “I have been working here for about six years. I have never sent any proposal to construct any infrastructure on the land.”

“I heard that the land is not necessary for the mill and may be sold. I don’t know about the price of the land,” he said.

When contacted, Deputy Commissioner of Chattogram Elias Hossain said, “I’m not aware of the matter. It’s hilly land. Neither the government nor any private organisation can destroy the hills. Moreover, the hilly land is at the heart of the city. Here hill cutting will not be allowed under any circumstances.”

Noted environmentalist Prof Muhammad Edris Ali, Vice President of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan (BAPA) told this correspondent: “We have to protect our environment; we must protect our hills. Our ecosystem cannot be destroyed irrespective of whether the land is privately owned or by the government.”

“These hills are covered by dense vegetation. It’s very unfortunate that steps have been taken to destroy it. We’ll not allow the destruction of the ecosystem and lodge a tougher movement to protect our hills,” he said.

Edris Ali said the people expect the hills to be protected by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who also works for protecting the environment and has won many awards for her role in protecting the environment.

Earlier, the ministry of textile and jute had decided to sell valuable land belonging to the Bangladesh Textile Mills Corporation (BTMC) to the police after failing to reclaim it from land grabbers.

The ministry said that the police department would be able to reclaim the land worth Tk. 99 crore from the encroachers after procuring 1.1774 acres from the Dhakeswari Cotton Mills Limited.

The BJMC currently operates 26 mills (including 3 non-jute industries). There are seven mills in the Dhaka zone, 10 mills in the Chittagong zone and nine mills in the Khulna zone.

Shamsuddin Illius
Shamsuddin Illius is a print and online media journalist. He has been working in the field (fulltime) of journalism since 2010. He is very much passionate about journalism since his early age. Currently he is the Bureau Chief-Chittagong at The Business Standard.

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