The court also ordered Unique Group to remove the soils and restore the land to its previous condition within the next six months
The High Court has declared illegal the construction of "Sonargaon Resort City" and "Sonargaon Economic Zone" by filling up agricultural lands, wetlands, and parts of the River Meghna at Sonargaon in Narayanganj.
The court also ordered the Sonargaon Resort City and Sonargaon Economic Zone, owned by businessman Mohammad Noor Ali, and other institutions in the area, which had filled up agriculture, river wetlands and low lying areas, to remove the soils and restore the land to its previous condition within the next six months.
At the same time, the authorities have been asked to set the compensation, take appropriate steps to collect the funds from the entities in question and pay the same to the affected farmers.
A High Court bench comprising Justices Mohammad Ashraful Kamal and Rajik-al-Jalil passed the verdict on Wednesday upon a writ petition by the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela).
At the hearing, Barrister Fida M Kamal and Advocate Syeda Rizwana Hasan represented Bela, while Advocate Murad Reza and Advocate Ahsanul Karim defended the respondents.
The court said organisations interested in setting up economic zones would have to seek clearance from the National River Conservation Commission and the Department of Environment before applying to the Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority.
Unique Properties Development Ltd had been constructing the Sonargaon Resort City project by filling up agricultural lands, wetlands, and parts of the Meghna in six mouzas of Sonargaon upazila.
Bela filed the writ petition in 2014, requesting the court to declare the construction activities illegal.
On March 2 of the same year, the High Court banned the earth filling in the project area.
At the same time, the court ordered the removal of soil and sand from the land already filled.
Following the order, soil and sand were removed from some areas and the land was restored.
But without fully implementing the order, the same company took an initiative to establish an economic zone.
Unique Hotel and Resorts Ltd, a sister concern of the company, filed an application with the High Court in 2016 seeking annulment of the previous order, claiming that the government had granted permission to fill the land in the area.
When Bela appealed against the order, the Appellate Division stayed the previous order of the High Court on 3 November of that year.
Bela filed a contempt of court petition on 16 January last year as earth filling continued in the area.
The Narayanganj deputy commissioner appeared in the High Court and promised to prevent the earth filling, which then promptly came to a halt.
When Unique Properties resumed the earth filling, contempt of court petition was filed again.
Bela filed an application in the High Court on 31 July 2018 as earth filling continued.
When the High Court rejected the application, Bela appealed against it to the Appellate Division.
Responding to this application, the Appellate Division issued an order on 14 August 2018 to stop earth filling.
A report was sought from the Narayanganj deputy commissioner on whether the order had been complied with.
The deputy commissioner appeared before the Appellate Division on 8 November of that year and claimed that earth filling in the areas in question had been stopped.
In this context, on 15 November of that year, the Appellate Division directed the High Court to dispose of the matter expeditiously.