High Court orders demolition of BGMEA headquarter
On April 3, 2011, a High Court in Bangladesh ordered the demolition of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) headquarters at Karwan Bazar for various irregularities including disrupting the free flow of water in Begunbari canal and Hatirjheel lake, forgery, and construction without proper permits.
The Court ruled that BGMEA constructed its headquarters on a filled wetland in Hatrjheed lake, and blocked the normal flow of the Begunbari canal. As a result, the construction violated both the Wetlands Protection Act and the Environment Conservation Act, 1995. Also, the environmental impact process (EIP), a regulatory mechanism to evaluate the project impact to the environment, had not been complied with.
The Court also found that the alleged transfer of land on which the building stands was illegal as it violated the State Acquisition and Tenancy Act 1950. According to the Act, the state can only acquire private land for public interest purposes. Yet, the government transferred the acquired land to BGMEA, a private entity, for its business purposes in violation of the Act.
According to the High Court order, BGMEA has to vacate the building within 90 days of the judgment, and start demolishing the high-rise building at its own cost. Further, authorities must restore the affected water bodies after demolishing the building. The court also asked the Department of Environment to evaluate the impact of the construction on the surrounding environment, and initiate proper legal steps against BGMEA after evaluation.
The judgment is a huge victory for the civil society organizations. Many environmental organizations had long been demanding demolition of the building. The court described BGMEA as a “financially powerful entity” that has used its muscles to skirt rules at the expense of the public interest. By ordering the demolition of BGMEA headquarter, the high court clearly delivered a message that even the most powerful entity must respect the law. The case was argued by Ms. Rizwana Hassan from the Bangladesh Environmental Law association, which is the Access initiative’s (TAI’s) lead partner in Bangladesh.
Although BGEMA, by filing a civil miscellaneous petition has obtained a six week stay on the order of demolition from a Chamber judge of the Appellate Division, the ultimate fate of the building will be decided by the full bench of the Supreme Court after BGMEA files a regular appeal in 6 weeks time.
Meanwhile, the mounting public opinion against the illegal acts of the BGMEA in making the construction indicates that reversing order in favour of BGMEA shall have little acceptance by the general people.