Chattogram District Administration has recently announced plans to remove almost 350 illegal structures on Fairy's Hill in Chattogram, including five buildings constructed for lawyers' chambers, as these risky buildings can cause major accidents at any time.
The lawyers and the administration were at loggerheads over the construction of the bar buildings recently. The district administration considers the construction plan risky while the bar association claims to have the required approval.
A study by the Fire Service and Civil Defence and the Department of Environment found that the construction of these risky illegal installations could lead to catastrophic human tragedies as a result of natural disasters such as earthquakes and landslides.
"At present, there are some government offices, including that of the deputy commissioner and divisional commissioner, on the hill. Five buildings have been constructed on the hillside for the lawyers' chambers on the hill, occupying khas land and the land of the district administration.
Therefore, the district administration has already made a list of illegal establishments and has prepared to evict those," Chattogram Deputy Commissioner (DC) Mohammad Mominur Rahman told The Business Standard.
Recently, the lawyers' association took initiative to construct two more new buildings next to the existing ones, but the district administration objected to the construction. The district administration also issued a warning notice through the media on 2 August declaring the buildings as risky and illegal, he added.
However, Mohammad Iqbal Hossain, spokesman for the Council for the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Lawyers, said, "There is no illegal establishment of lawyers in the hill. The existing illegal establishments are under the district administration. Earlier, when the district administration had leased the land to Mutual Trust Bank, the authorities had to cancel the lease as a result of the protest from the lawyers' association."
The hilltop court building was established 130 years ago. Now the hill houses the new court building, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrates' Court, five buildings belonging to the lawyers, and also the offices of the divisional and deputy commissioners.
To meet the growing demand for lawyers' chambers, Chattogram Bar Association moved to construct the two new structures next to their main building.
But citing the Environment Conservation Act, the DC said land under the hill category cannot be transformed into other categories.
Bangladesh Bank and CDA building at risk
The old Bangladesh Bank building, the Chattogram Development Authority (CDA) building and the Chattogram New Market are located on the land below the slope of the hill. At the very top of these buildings, there are five buildings of lawyers built in a risky position on the slope of the sub-hill, which may cause accidents at any time.
DC Mominur Rahman said, "Bangladesh Bank is an installation under Key Point Installation (KPI). According to the policy, no multi-storey building can be set up in the vicinity of Class A KPIs. That is why Bangladesh Bank is also working on removing these illegal buildings of lawyers."
Shahinul Islam Khan, the chief urban planner of the Chittagong Development Authority, said four of the five buildings built for lawyers have been approved. The authorities will also look into whether the rest of the buildings were built as per the rules.
PM says 'NO' to new buildings
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has rejected the attempt to construct two new buildings in the historic Fairy's Hill without the approval of the district administration. At the same time, the prime minister has instructed not to build new installations on the hill.
DC Mominur Rahman said, "Considering the risk, a proposal in this regard was submitted to the Prime Minister by the Cabinet Division and she agreed to it."
On Sunday, the Prime Minister's directive was sent to the Law and Justice Division, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and the Ministry of Land from the Field Administration Liaison Branch of the Cabinet Division. The Cabinet Division has also asked for taking appropriate actions and being informed of the progress of its implementation, he added.
Installation in the name of Bangabandhu is not approved!
Recently, the Chattogram District Bar Association called for tenders under the name "Bangabandhu Bhaban" as part of the process of constructing their two new buildings.
But the district administration says to make any installation in the name of Bangabandhu and his family members, the written permission has to be obtained from the Bangabandhu Memorial Trust under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister. The bar association has called for tenders without this permission.
Enamul Haque, the president of the association, said the process of taking approval is ongoing. If permission is not obtained, there will be no building in his name.
Lawyers want a chance to defend themselves
Enamul Haque, the president of the Chattogram District Bar Association, said, "The place for building lawyers' chambers on the hill was leased in 1977. There is also a decree from the court in this regard. Moreover, the Chattogram Development Authority has approved it. What did the district administration do when all these buildings were built in phases in the last 40 years?"
Iftekhar Simul Chowdhury, former president of the Bar Association and legal secretary of the city committee, said, "None has anything to say after the Prime Minister talked about the issue. However, if we get a chance to defend ourselves, we would like to know on what basis the lawyers' buildings were built."
Advocate Zia Uddin, general secretary of the association, said, "These buildings were constructed with the approval of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Ministry of Law."