Dhaka, Bangladesh
Trees, hills razed for housing

Trees, hills razed for housing

Builders cutting greenery, hillocks in port city’s Sholoshahar area without DoE approval

News Desk Sanmar Properties Limited, one of the top real estate companies in the country, has been razing greenery along with hills nearby Bangladesh Forest Research Institute in Chattogram city's Sholoshahar area for a twin multistory apartment block project. Around hundred of trees and other vegetation were shaved off to make space for the project titled "Sanmar Knightsbridge at Duncan Hills", which is in progress without approval from the Department of Environment (DoE). Locals alleged that the real estate company engaged its excavator and dump truck to cut the hills at night. A large part of it has been cleared for the project. DoE Chattogram (metro) ordered Sanmar Properties to stop their work and issued a notice on October 5, asking its director to explain why legal action won't be taken against them. Mia Mahmudul Haque, deputy director of DoE Chattogram (metro), told The Daily Star that Sanmar Properties applied to secure approval for building retention wall for the project in December last year. DoE asked them to get approval from Hill Management Committee headed by the divisional commissioner of Chattogram in a letter sent to them on March 10 this year and submit it to DoE, he said. The company did not respond to their letter yet, he said, adding that DoE gave them another reminder on August 31 this year. But before getting any approval, Sanmar Properties started cutting greenery and hills, which had a rich biodiversity as it was habitat for various species of snakes. They razed around 100 trees there, he added. The tree cutting took place on the hills and hill slope, which may end up impacting the binding capacity of the soil. It could even prompt a massive landslide there in case of downpour, he said. "As they did not comply with our instruction, we issued them a notice, asking to stop the work and appear at DoE office on October 18 for a hearing," the deputy director said. Contacted, Mainul Haque, senior manager (admin) of Sanmar Properties Limited, said the hills and trees belonged to them. "That's why we do not need any permission to cut the trees." "The allegation will only arise when we will cut the hills, which did not happen yet," he claimed. Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act 1995 (amended in 2000) clearly states cutting hills without having approval from the environment authorities is prohibited. Also, many locals alleged that Sanmar Properties razed trees and hills for the ongoing project. When pointed out, Mainul Haque said, "We obtained permission from CDA for the project. Approval from DoE is under process with its Dhaka office. They served us a notice, we will give our explanation then." He kept on repeating the same statement to all the questions this correspondent had afterwards.

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