Bangladesh tears down building seen as symbol of corruption

A view of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association headquarters as the authorities prepare to demolish the building, in Dhaka on Jan 22, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

DHAKA (AFP) - Bangladesh authorities Wednesday (Jan 22) began tearing down the headquarters of a powerful garment lobby long viewed as a symbol of corruption in a move hailed as a victory for the environmental movement.

The demolition of the 15-storey building in the capital Dhaka is set to be completed over six months using bulldozers as well as workers wielding hammers.

It came almost three years after the nation's highest court ruled that the building was illegally constructed in the flood plain of a key central Dhaka lake, openly flouting environmental laws.

"This building is a malignant tumour for the state, the country, environment and a beautiful Dhaka," said Housing and Public Works Minister S. M. Rezaul Karim.

The building is owned by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, a lobby group whose members account for some 84 per cent of the country's US$40.5 billion (S$55 billion) in shipments.

Environment lawyers first challenged its legality a decade ago after revelations it was illegally constructed on a state-owned flood plain.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who was also in power then, laid the foundation stone for the controversial building in 1998.

It was formally opened by her successor in 2006.

The lobby group's president said he respected the court order and called for the building to be demolished safely.

"I hope the country's government and the powerful businessmen take lessons from this demolition," said Mr Sharif Jamil, a leading Bangladesh environmentalist.

He told AFP some 50,000 structures across the country had been illegally built on waterways and flood plains.

The demolition work starts just two days after Bangladesh's High Court ordered the shutdown of 231 factories blamed for turning Dhaka's main river into one of the world's most polluted waterways.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.