Save Ashulia lake
SDNP Follow-ups

Left: Different socio-cultural organisations and NGOs under the banner of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (BPA) held a rally and formed a human chain on the Dhaka-Tangail highway at Ashulia yesterday protesting filling of Asulia lake illegally by some real estate companies for building residential plots.

Save Ashulia now
Decentralised economic planning can reduce pressure on Dhaka

Finally the conscious citizens of Dhaka have protested the systematic takeover of Ashulia, the stretch of land and water at the fag-end of the city which provides it with some breathing space. A few stolen hours at Ashulia re-energizes those who visit. But as it happens in any city experiencing a growth sprawl, every piece of land is up for grabs. And since there are no laws to protect the environment, open spaces are always vulnerable to greedy hands, individual and corporate. The land for house building has greater value than the quality of air we swallow, it seems.

The movement for the protection and preservation of Ashulia is actually an illustration of a test-case in rising needs of a city growing at a break-neck speed. We can't deny that there is a need for more building space as Dhaka simply can't afford to house its citizens within the municipal boundaries. And Dhaka doesn't have enough space to house them anyway. It's full of land demand with very little supply. Many people looking for homes and households inside Dhaka have already bought land in different landfills and that shows there is a part of the citizenry which is willing to discard the need for open spaces and plunge into building activities sacrificing such spaces.

But this crowding is the result of the failure to initiate economic decentralisation. That has pulled millions to the city, as Dhaka is the only place where one can survive through one form of economic activity or another. The growth of Dhaka is in effect a great example of failed national planning. Had there been even growth many cities would have sprung up instead of one. It's almost like the autocracy of one city over all.

Till there are more growth zones in Bangladesh, Dhaka will continue to bloat and that will continue to put pressure on the many eco-necessary zones of the area. But nothing can happen in isolation and saving Ashulia will mean taking steps in many sectors including management of urbanization and decentralized economic planning.

But right now the Save Ashulia movement has already done a major job by pointing out the dangers and resisting the moves to grab vital land space. Now others must follow. Civil society has become energised and has in the last few years taken a number of positions to protect the city. This means that the government may be forced to become more accountable on land grabbing and other issues. And that's how all good news begins.

Save Ashulia lake, halt encroachment
NGOs, environmentalists demand

The Daily Star : Wed. December 26, 2001

Asulia lake on the outskirts of the city is a popular recreation spot. People in their thousands flock there particularly in the wet season for a cruise in the vast lake.

Addressing the rally BPA leaders said, to have clean and safe environment is part of human rights.

They leaders demanded a halt to encroachment of Asulia lake, immediate eviction of encroachers and their trial. They called for building a movement to save the lake.

Prof Abdullah Abu Syed of Bishwa Sahitta Kendra termed the Asulia lake a blessing of god for the city dwellers. People go there with families for a respite from the polluted air and a breath in fresh air, he said. He said encroachers are grabbing Asulia lake; rivers like Burigonga, Turag and Kornafuli and others water bodies violating law but the government is doing nothing to check this. There is a law prohibiting filling of any water body, but it is not being enforced, he said. He urged the local people to join the movement to save the Asulia lake. He blamed RAJUK authorities for not taking necessary steps to save the Asulia lake from encroachers.

Noted economist Dr Atiar Rahman said vested quarters are grabbing public property in connivance with some unscrupulous government officials. He urged all political parties to come forward to protect water bodies and the environment. Prof Muzzafar Ahmed said unplanned urbanisation in the country is destroying the ecological balance. This has to be stopped. Urbanisation can take place by maintaining ecological balance if done in a planned way, he said.

He said air pollution in Dhaka city has crossed all limits and about Tk 500 crore is spent annually in the country for treatment of diseases caused by the pollution.

Among others, Al Beroni, Mofizul Huq Khan, Abdullah Ferdous, Dr Bodiul Alam and Abu Naser Khan spoke at the rally.


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