Rajuk doesn’t have data about unauthorized use of residential areas
The number of commercial establishments built on residential plots is on a significant rise in Dhaka's Banani area, under the very nose of city development authority Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), disrupting life in the residential area.
Officially, Rajuk allows commercial operations only on Kamal Ataturk Avenue and Banani Road 11, subject to prior permission from the authorities. However, while investigating the matter, Dhaka Tribune found that a large number of companies and organizations are using the residential plots for commercial purposes.
Rajuk officials say only 30 plots on Kamal Atartuk Avenue and 86 plots on Road 11 are allowed for commercial operations, but the scenario is completely different in reality.
For example, a plot with holding numbers 8 and 9 on Banani Road 27 houses an antique shop named Paragon and the Attin restaurant. On the corner opposite to Holding No 9, there is a clothing outlet shop named Lumiere.
On Road 22, Block K, what appears to be a multidisciplinary boutique hospital has been constructed on Plots 12 and 13, and looks to start operating soon.
Dr SM Jaglul A Mozumdar, managing director of York Hospital, argued that they can do anything since they own the land.
“We have applied to Rajuk for permissions. We will start operating once we receive their approval,” he added.
On Plot 10, the office of real estate company Shamsul Alamin Real Estate is located.
Rahman Center, on Plot 18, is being used as the offices for Deshbandhu Group, while Plot 11 is being used by a manpower export agency named Catharsis International.
When contacted, Ehsan Alam, a front desk executive of Desbandhu Group, confirmed to Dhaka Tribune that the group has an office on Plot 18 of Road 22.
On Road 27, Hotel Eastern Residence is located at Holding 14, while clothing shop Raw Nation and furniture store Home Pro operate on Holding 15.
Mir Sarifuzzaman, manager of Hotel Eastern Residence, told Dhaka Tribune that he was unaware as to whether Rajuk has allowed the hotel to operate in the area or not.
On Road 10 of Block D, restaurant Tarka accommodates diners at Holding 52.
When contacted, an official of Estate-1 of Rajuk, however, told Dhaka Tribune that they had not approved any commercial establishments on Road 22 of Banani.
Rajuk does not have updated info
Under these circumstances, Rajuk officials said they do not have the up-to-date information on how many of these businesses are operating on residential plots.
Md Aktaruzzaman, a director at Rajuk, said there is no complete list with data about unauthorized use of residential areas.
“We are updating the list,” he added.
The transfer of residential plots into commercial ones has been allowed by Rajuk since 2017, only on the streets that are at least 60 feet wide.
When contacted, Banani Society Vice-President Aminur Rahman said: “If an organization is conducting commercial activities with permission from relevant authorities, we have no objections against it.”
The Ministry of Housing and Public Works issued notices to 1,636 building owners in Gulshan, Banani and Dhanmondi residential areas after the terror attack on July 1, 2016, saying they would have to stop using residential buildings for business purposes, or because they did not follow the Building Code and the originally approved design.
Earlier in April 2016, Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam said unapproved and/or commercial establishments must leave the residential areas in Dhaka city.
However, the owners have paid little heed to these notices.
On the other hand, authorities have been forced to designate parts of these areas as commercial zones.
The High Court set a 10-month deadline on July 5, 2017 to remove unauthorized commercial entities and structures on residential plots, after hearing writ petitions filed in the wake of a Rajuk drive against these establishments. However, there has been little development regarding the matter since then.
Abdul Matin, president of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), said Rajuk does not work for a safe and beautiful Dhaka.
“Without permissions from Rajuk, nobody can operate like this,” he said while urging Rajuk to be proactive in stopping this.
Eminent architect Iqbal Habib said Rajuk is giving others the opportunity to use residential areas for commercial purposes – sometimes in exchange for money, and sometimes giving in to influential people.
He said Rajuk is allowing some commercial establishments to base their business in residential locations, charging them the fees for commercial areas – saying they are doing this to collect revenue. “But it is not Rajuk’s responsibility to ensure that proper revenue is paid,” he added.
He further said both the illegal users and the officials who let them do it must be held responsible and punished accordingly.