Home Bangladesh 350,000 illegal buildings legalizing in Dhaka city
Bangladesh - February 20, 2023

350,000 illegal buildings legalizing in Dhaka city

Charging fines and some moderation

Zarif Mahmud: The government has taken the initiative to legalize about 350,000 illegal buildings constructed without permission or in breach of conditions through fines. For this, a policy is being made to determine the process of legalizing illegal buildings through fines. A committee has been formed in this regard on January 31, headed by an additional secretary. The government has taken this initiative as per the recommendations of the new Detailed Area Plan or DAP (2022-2035).
According to the news published in various media, Turkey is facing a terrible situation due to the earthquake due to the construction of buildings without following the proper rules. The number of dead in this terrible natural disaster has already exceeded 45 thousand. Thousands of illegal buildings are legalized through fines in Turkey.
Researchers and experts have been warning that Bangladesh is at risk of major earthquakes due to the occurrence of small earthquakes in the past few years. In this situation, urban experts feel that it is necessary to consider whether Bangladesh is also following the path of Turkey by legalizing illegal buildings.
However, the officials of the Ministry of Housing and Public Works and the Rajdhani UnnyanKartipakha (Rajuk) said that 90 to 95 percent of the buildings in Dhaka are built without following the rules, having gross deviation. As a result, no matter how dangerous these buildings are, it is not possible for a country like Bangladesh to demolish such a large number of buildings as illegal. Therefore, there is no option but to make illegal buildings as risk-free as possible through fines and renovations. They also said that it is recognized in different countries of the world including India.
This is outlined in the new DAP.However, legalizing illegal buildings through fines is a big challenge. A decision in this regard should come from the policy-making stage of the government.
Urban experts said, according to the reality of Bangladesh, it is not possible to demolish such a large number of illegal buildings. But the process by which it is being validated must be specific and clear. If something is done in a corrupt manner, a big disaster is waiting ahead.
The Ministry of Housing and Public Works formed a committee of 12 members on January 31 to legalize illegal buildings. Additional Secretary of the Ministry (Administration Division-1) has been made convenor.
It is said that a 12-member committee has been formed to formulate a draft rule for legalizing buildings constructed without the authority’s approval or violating the terms and conditions as per the recommendations of the Dhaka Metropolitan Area Plan (2022-2035).
Members of the committee are – Rajuk Member (Planning), Member (Development Control), Bangladesh Institute of Architects (IAB) President/General Secretary, Engineers Institution Bangladesh (IEB) President/General Secretary, Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP) President/General Secretary, RAJUK Chief Engineer (Implementation), Deputy Secretary (Planning Wing-3) Ministry of Housing and Public Works, RAJUK City Architect, RAJUK City Planner (Implementation) and RAJUK Dhaka Authority Officer (Concerned Zone).
Rajuk’s city planner (planning) is the member secretary of the committee. The committee will formulate the draft rules regarding the application procedure for validating the building constructed without the approval of the authority or in violation of the conditions given at the time of approval, the fee and penalty determination procedure.
At the same time, the committee will carry out on-site inspection of the unauthorized parts of buildings which have been constructed in violation of the rules or approval conditions as per the ‘Dhaka Metropolitan Building (Construction, Development, Preservation and Removal) Rules, 2008 (Building Rules)’. After that, the existing ‘Building Construction Rules-2008’ and BNBC Code will be reviewed and a report prepared.
The report prepared by the committee should be submitted to the Cabinet Committee on DAP Review to finalize it. Such information has been given in the notification of the formation of the committee.
RAJUK Member (Development Control) Tanmoy Das told, “Many buildings have not been designed or approved, but the buildings are in order as per the rules. In that case, there is an opportunity to legalize those buildings by paying a fine. Besides, we have a high-level committee on how much deviation is acceptable in building construction. There are urban planners. Besides, a rule is being made to implement DAP.
Urban planner of Rajuk Ashraful Islam told, “Rajuk’s approval may not have been taken for the construction of any building, but the verification of infrastructure security is fine.” In this case, there is a provision of 10 times fine in the existing law. In this case only the offer as per the DAP will be availed. This matter is also in the Building Construction Act.
He said, “However, we are supposed to make a policy regarding the method by which we will do this work.”
Most of the buildings in sub-urban areas of Dhaka such as Keraniganj, Savar and Gazipur are unauthorized. Maybe 5 to 10 percent of buildings in those areas have approvals. The remaining 90 to 95 percent of the buildings are not approved.
Ashraful Islam said, “After the FR Tower accident in Dhaka city, a survey was done about the height. Then 1,818 illegal buildings were found.
This (legalization of illegal buildings through fines) is practiced in various places in India including Mumbai. According to BNBC (Bangladesh National Building Code) if the building is structurally safe, they will be legalized with fines. If someone gives that certification then it will happen’, said the urban planner.
However, an official of the Ministry of Housing and Public Works said on condition of anonymity, “This committee has been made in view of Rajuk’s proposal. This is not correct. It will be cancelled. A meeting will be held on this when the Minister of State (State Minister for Housing and Public Works Sharif Ahmed) returns from abroad. Hopefully we can meet next week (this week).’
He said, “Many things are not clear. There is a Cabinet Committee on DAP Review chaired by the Minister for Local Government. Is that committee still in place or not? Because that committee was made to review the earlier DAP. The committee is supposed to be canceled after the gazette of the new DAP. If that committee remains in place, then the decision to form the committee should come from there.
“Also, this is such a big policy-making decision that there cannot be a committee on this at the additional secretary level. A higher-level committee is needed in this regard. A decision will be taken after the state minister returns,” added the official of the Ministry of Housing and Public Works.
If asked about this, the additional secretary of the Ministry of Public Works (Administration Division-1) and the convener of the committee. Aliullah told, “The committee has not started work. A decision on this matter can be informed later after looking at the whole matter.
Urban and environmentalist architect Iqbal Habib said, ‘Until there are policies, it is difficult to comment on this. In the meantime, the news has been published that the buildings which were approved in this way in Turkey have collapsed in the earthquake.
He said, “There are several types of unauthorized buildings. DAP has hints about that. I hope the details regarding this will be in the policy. It appears that many houses have been built by technically competent people, but have illegally taken out balconies, added extra extensions all around. They can be legalized back to their previous state (as per original design) through fines.’
Architect Iqbal Habib also said, ‘some owner may not have followed the process (including design approval) but constructed the building as per rules. He can also be legalized by completing the process by paying a penalty at an additional rate.
Iqbal Habib, joint secretary of Bangladesh Environment Movement (Bapa), said, “Many buildings were not built by technically skilled or Rajuk enlisted people. If they are found to be dangerous even after re-examination. RAJUK has already procured equipment under the Urban Resilience Project to identify these buildings. Check if structural defects or defects are found that cannot be corrected. So, there are two things about them.
Firstly, those buildings have to be re-strengthened (re-strengthening) so that they can meet the BNBC requirements for impact resistance. Secondly, those building owners will also have to pay huge fines.
He said, ‘Those buildings which are absolutely dangerous cannot be legalized even with a fine. DAP has these indications.
This member of the Board of Trustees of Bangladesh University said, ‘Which committee will conduct the examination?’ The committee checked and said no, in that case, where can appeal be made? How the test will be conducted after the appeal, who will re-vet it – nothing is clear. These should be detailed in the policy. We have to proceed accordingly.
Iqbal Habib also said, “Prospectively, it is true that most, in Rajuk’s terms, 90 percent of the buildings are illegal.” It is not possible for the government to decide to dismantle them all. Then through a process they can be approved only subject to hazard or compliance.’
There is no opportunity to do this without following a specific process, the joint editor of Bapa said, “It is almost impossible to do this work with Rajuk’s capacity, irresponsible image and manpower so far. Such a situation is created due to lack of manpower and supervision of Rajuk. It is almost impossible to make such a difficult task again with the person who caused this situation (Rajuk).
So, I will say, Bangladesh National Building Code mentions building regulatory authority (BRA). Who will see the Bangladesh National Building Code. I think that only such work should be done with such an organization,” said Iqbal Habib.
The recommendations are in DAP
The gazette of the new DAP was published on August 22 last year. The ‘Management of Unauthorized Buildings’ section of the DAP states that a large number of structures/buildings in Dhaka Metropolis have been constructed without or despite the approval of the authorities in violation of the approval conditions.
Analyzing the data obtained from the physical survey under DAP, it can be seen that the total number of existing establishments in the covered area is 21 lakh 45 thousand 746. According to the ‘Urban Development Act, 1953’, permission of the authorities is required to construct any type of building in these areas.
Analyzing detailed regional planning data, it has been found that the number of establishments increased by 949,330 from 2006 to 2016. That is, on an average, about 95,000 new buildings have been built every year. On the other hand, the latest data analysis shows that the rate of establishment design approval is about 4,175 per year on average (source- RAJUK Annual Report, 2014-2015, 2015-2016 and 2016-2017). In other words, only 4.4 percent of buildings are legally built with approval from Rajuk.
According to the ‘Dhaka Metropolitan Buildings (Construction, Development, Preservation and Removal) Rules, 2008’ (Building Rules), there are provisions for removal of structures which are constructed without permission or in violation of the rules or conditions of approval. That is, according to the current law, there is no opportunity to legalize the establishment through fines by maintaining any kind of violation of the rules. From these data it can be inferred that the scale of the problem is such that the removal of illegal structures/parts can cause humanitarian disaster across the city.
On the other hand, the enforcement of laws to legalize any kind of disturbance only in return for fines may also pose a threat to the livability of the city. DAP also said that this may encourage illegal construction of buildings.
Recommending policies related to building management, the DAP said, authorities can collect fixed compensation from individuals or institutions based on the level of disturbance to the building for constructing unauthorized buildings. In this case unauthorized construction may be allowed subject to necessary structural corrections/removals/alterations in the building.
The DAP also mentions the implementation of the proposed provision of penalty in view of the decision of a specific assessment committee in this regard.
However, in some cases, even with a fine, the installation will not be legalized. These are – by disrupting the master plan, occupying public property, filling water bodies, violating the height limit prescribed by civil aviation, occupying parts of national and regional highways and railway lines and constructing buildings.

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