High Court declares illegal Noor Ali’s Sonargaon economic zone, resort city

  • Staff Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-12-02 22:43:19 BdST

bdnews24

The High Court has declared illegal the filling up of parts of land that are arable, low-lying, marshland or situated in the Meghna river in Sonargaon for real estate businessman Noor Ali’s economic zone.

A panel of Justice Ashraful Kamal and Razik-Al-Jalil made the declaration on Wednesday after hearings on rules it had issued following a public interest writ petition.

The judges ordered the removal of soil from the filled-up lands and compensation for the farmers who suffered damage within six months, said Syeda Rizwana Hasan, one of the lawyers for the petitioner Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association or BELA.

From now on, those willing to set up economic zones must get clearance from the National River Conservation Commission or NRCC and the Department of Environment before applying to the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority following the High Court order, said Rizwana.

The court ruling renders all activities conducted in the name of Sonargaon Resort City and Sonargaon Economic Zone illegal, she said.

Besides Rizwana, lawyers Fida M Kamal, Minhazul Haque Chowdhury, Ali Mustafa Khan and Sayeed Ahmed Kabir represented the petitioner in court.

Former additional attorney general Murad Reza represented Beza while Ahsanul Karim and Abu Taleb argued for the two organisations of Noor Ali.

Unique Property Development Ltd, a company run by Noor Ali, has been constructing the economic zone on 450 acres of land next to the Meghna river near the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway, according to its website.

After initial hearing of BELA’s writ petition, the High Court in 2014 issued a set of rules, asking the authorities why the court should not order a halt on the work to fill-up the lands and save the low-lying areas.

It had also asked why Unique should not be ordered to pay damages to the residents of the areas.

When the hearing on the rules was under way, the court ordered a halt on the filling up of the lands, and their restoration to previous state by removing the extra soil.   

The court, however, allowed Sonargaon Economic Zone to carry out its work in a revised order when it presented the paper certifying that it received BEZA’s permission.

The company then challenged the revised order in the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division. The appeals court in November 2016 ordered the disposal of the case on the main rules within six weeks, staying the High Court order allowing the Sonargaon Economic Zone to conduct operations.