DoE yet to receive an application for environmental impact assessment
A project for the construction of a hospital and medical college in the Central Railway Building (CRB) area of Chittagong is unlikely to receive environmental clearance, as it would have an adverse effect on natural biodiversity, government officials and leaders of the ruling Awami League have said.
Bangladesh Railway and United Enterprise Ltd signed a public-private partnership (PPP) agreement for the construction of the 500-bed multi-specialized hospital and a 100-seat medical college in March 2020. News that the railway authorities were planning to begin construction as soon as the situation of the Covid-19 pandemic improved met with widespread public outcry, as the CRB area is home to many century-old trees.
Mufidul Alam, director of the Chittagong division of the Department of Environment (DoE), on Monday, told Dhaka Tribune that the department was yet to receive an application for environmental impact assessment of the project.
“It is not possible to begin construction without the DoE’s consent. People have been protesting against the project, and the DoE must keep environmental and ecological concerns in mind when issuing clearances.”
Although the assessment was yet to be conducted, it is highly unlikely that a project the size of the hospital would be approved in an area such as the CRB, he added.
Chittagong South District Awami League General Secretary Mofizur Rahman said: “The CRB is surrounded by century-old trees; it is a place where people can breathe safely. No heavy construction can be allowed [at the CRB].
“Our leaders are against this hospital. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has listened to us, and she has said that there will be no hospital in the CRB area if the people of Chittagong do not support it,” he added.
The Awami League leader went on to say that the CRB area’s status as a national heritage site made construction there impossible.
Chittagong Development Authority (CDA) Chief Engineer Kazi Hassan Bin Shams said: “CRB falls under the protected area category as a Heritage Zone. There are policies that do not allow any commercial establishments in the CRB area.
“There is no doubt that the city needs a hospital, and the railway authorities could have chosen any place other than this area,” he added.
Earlier on June 14, Bangladesh Railway in a press release signed by Project Director and Additional Chief Engineer (Bridge/East) Mohammad Ahsan Jabir said CRB's Goalpara area had been earmarked for the construction of the hospital.
The hospital would be built on a total area of six acres and no centennial trees would be cut down, according to the press release.
Mohammad Ahsan Jabir told Dhaka Tribune the hospital had been planned for construction in the centre of the city to suit the needs of the people.
“We are building this multi-specialized hospital to cater to the needs of our people. Some small and younger trees may be felled for construction, but no centennial trees are situated in this area. Even if we find one or two, we will not cut them down but incorporate them into the design accordingly,” he said.
“We are doing everything according to the procedure. If our project is harmful to the environment, the relevant government authorities will see to that,” the project director added.