- 135 multi-storey buildings have been approved in Rajshahi; of these, 113 are 10-storey buildings and the rest are over 10-storey buildings
- Many plot owners have built 1,200-square-foot flats after taking permission to build 1,000-square-foot flats
- City planners say that the indiscriminate construction of multistorey buildings is destroying playgrounds and public gathering spaces in Rajshahi city
- If the construction of buildings are block-based instead of the current plot-based practice, it is possible to provide the infrastructural facilities
- About Tk3,000 to Tk4,000 crore have been invested in housing business in the quickly expanding city
- According to the RDA, 135 multi-storey buildings have been approved in Rajshahi. Of these, 113 are 10-storey buildings and the rest are over 10-storey buildings
- RDA is formulating a 20-year Disaster Sensitive Master Plan to ensure proper use of land and disaster management
- RDA master plan gives importance to dealing with four kinds of disasters: earthquakes, floods, droughts and fires
Multistorey buildings are sprouting up all over the divisional city of Rajshahi, ignoring the construction rules and gobbling up dozens of playgrounds of the city's youths and children.
The grabbers of playgrounds, a much needed breathing space of the city dwellers, are carrying on the illegal activities due to the endless inactivity of authorities concerned, alleged people of Rajshahi.
Many of these multistorey buildings are being constructed in Rajshahi without maintaining the structural and architectural rules. Many of these buildings do not have fire extinguishing system or stairway for emergency exit.
Due to construction defects, owners are not getting registration of 550 flats under construction at Padma Abasik, one of the residential projects of RDA, at Bhadra area in the city. RDA authorities are not giving approval due to violation of construction rules.
The Rajshahi Development Authority (RDA) Chairman Anwar Hossain said, "Padma Abasik is one of the most attractive residential projects of RDA. However, most of the plot owners have built buildings there without following the building construction rules. Many have built 1,200-square-foot flats after taking permission to build 1,000-square-foot flats. Those buildings are not being approved due to the visible deviation which actually is a violation of agreement. They have been asked to rectify the defects."
However, Real Estate and Developers Association (REDA) General Secretary Mizanur Rahman Kazi claimed to The Business Standard that there were some deviations in the beginning but they have succeeded in narrowing it down to zero deviation.
He said deviations have been reduced in many apartments. There is deviation only in buildings where there is no way to rectify the deviation.
"We have requested the RDA to compromise considering the huge investment of the developers. Besides, the developers have the least deviation. Those who have built flats themselves, or through joint ventures with banks, have more deviations," he added.
He claimed that the government is being deprived of around Tk300 crore revenue due to non-approval of those buildings.
However, according to the RDA's estate branch, only 50 applications have been submitted seeking flat's approval.
It is learnt that structural and architectural defects like Padma Abasik are common in many multistorey buildings in the city. Fire extinguishing system has not been ensured in many multistorey buildings under construction.
Anwar Hossain said, "Usually we approve the construction of all multistorey buildings in accordance with the construction rules. But it is seen that after getting the approval, the land owners do not abide by the rules while constructing buildings. When we go to inspect, the find deviation from the rules. Due to lack of manpower, it is not possible to carry out continuous supervision. However, when we find out any irregularity, we take action accordingly.
Rajshahi Fire Service and Civil Defense Deputy Director (Acting) Abdur Rashid said, "By multistorey building, we mean buildings over seven to twenty-storied ones. A number of 204 such buildings have gotten approval from Dhaka Fire Service. Among those, our team has inspected 60 multistorey buildings. After inspecting the buildings, they have been given advice on fire safety. In addition, we are providing consultation on fire safety to those who have already built buildings without proper approval. We have already inspected 54 such buildings and provided suggestions on fire safety."
However, city planners say that the indiscriminate construction of multistorey buildings is destroying playgrounds and public gathering spaces in Rajshahi city. Therefore, during the construction of multistorey buildings, the community facilities should also be increased.
Md Asaduzzaman, assistant professor of architecture department of Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology called for emphasis on integrated development.
"Our buildings are built plot based. Due to plot-based construction of buildings, only housing crises are solved there. But along with the housing facility, other facilities that are supposed to be adjacent to the housing are not being looked after. For example, markets, playgrounds, educational institutions and other facilities are not being given due importance. Besides, I think, if the construction of buildings are block-based instead of the current plot-based practice, it is possible to provide the infrastructural facilities. This would certainly make people of all ages feel comfortable.
Other side of the coin
With a rapidly growing housing business in Rajshahi, many middle class people are now able to buy flats in the city at an economic cost. About Tk3,000 to Tk4,000 crore have been invested in the housing business in the quickly expanding city.
Sources said there were no multistorey buildings in Rajshahi only one and a half decades ago. But now city dwellers are buying flats in 10-storey or 20-storey buildings.
The Life Insurance Corporation's 10-storey building at C&B intersection was the only multistorey building in the divisional city until 2006. But now dozens of multistorey buildings built across the city during the last decade has changed the cityscape totally. Constructing multistorey buildings, developers sell the flats to the buyers.
A growing number of landowners, who do not have sufficient money to construct a building, are contracting with real estate companies to build multistorey buildings on their land.
Golam Mawla Dollar has built a 10-storey building on his five-katha land at Sipaipara area in Rajshahi city with the help of a real estate company.
He told The Business Standard, "This plot of land was left unused. There were a few roadside shops in front of it. Later, I came to an agreement with Al Aqsar Developing Company that they would take 52% and give us 48% of the constructed building. Under the agreement, they built a 10-storey building on the land. The first four floors were commercial space. There are 12 residential flats on the remaining six floors."
"As a result of the construction of the building, we now have a lot of economic support. We earn money renting out shops at the commercial space," he added.
According to the RDA, 135 multi-storey buildings have been approved in Rajshahi. Of these, 113 are 10-storey buildings and the rest are over 10-storey buildings.
Real estate businessmen said about Tk3,000 to Tk4,000 crore has been invested in the real estate business in Rajshahi in the last decade by more than 50 real estate companies. To make the real estate business more dynamic, Real Estate and Developers Association (REDA) of Rajshahi was formed in 2017. The RDA has 18 members, but there are many real estate companies here who are not REDA members.
Mizanur Rahman Kazi, general secretary of REDA, said the real estate traders of our organisation have invested Tk2,000 crore in the city. They have constructed about 600 flats and handed those over to the buyers. We try to offer the flats the lowest price possible. But as the prices of all commodities are going up, so does the prices of flats.
He claimed the real estate sector is providing livelihoods of about two lakh people including the construction workers.
20-year Disaster Sensitive Master Plan
Rajshahi Development Authority is working on a 20-year Disaster Sensitive Master Plan. It has already completed most of the work. If this new master plan is implemented, the authorities concerned think that proper use of land will be possible along with disaster management.
Sources said RDA was formed in 1976 for the planned and smooth implementation of development projects. After its formation, a 20-year master plan was formulated in 1984 which was effective till 2004. A second phase master plan was prepared then for the use and development of land in the city from 2004 to 2024.
The third phase master plan, termed as Disaster Sensitive Master Plan, is being prepared extending and revising this second phase master plan. This master plan is giving importance to dealing with four kinds of disasters: earthquakes, floods, droughts and fires.
Ajmeri Ashrafi, city planner of RDA, said work on the disaster-sensitive master plan began in 2017. So far, 17 different types of data have been collected from a 365 square-km area of RDA. We have visited every ward and talked to the people of the area. Now they are being analyzed.
He said that in this master plan, separate zones have been created for residential, commercial and industrial purposes. In addition, road networking, playgrounds, educational institutions, reservoir conservation issues have also been included in the new master plan. Land use has been divided into 17 categories. As a result, it will be possible to urbanise maintaining all kinds of civic facilities.
Anwar Hossain said, "Although there is a deadline for formulation of this master plan in June, its completion has been delayed a little due to the ongoing pandemic.
However, we hope to complete formulating the master plan by December next. We have consulted various government departments and organisations including the Rajshahi City Corporation which is also directly involved in its formulation.
"If this master plan is formulated and implemented accordingly, the city of Rajshahi will be more beautiful and planned," he hoped.