By Sumi Khan
New Delhi, Sep 19 (IANS) The local administration and lawyers association in Bangladesh's Chittagong have locked horns over construction on a heritage hill, known as 'Porir Pahar' or Fairy Hill, the government ponders over whether to declare it a heritage site.
Also, the district administration has proposed to announce the two-storey hilltop court building of 130 years as a heritage building. It was designed like Writer's Building of Kolkata by the British government.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has agreed to a Cabinet proposal on the removal of illegal structures from the hill and preventing new structures from being erected.
"We'll follow the directives from the higher authority. If the government wants the cultural affairs ministry to take the responsibility (of Porir Pahar), we will take it. We can give you the details only when the file is here," said Joint Secretary Md Ataur Rahman.
On August 29, the Chittagong district administration wrote to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs to remove the illegal structures from the hill.
The Ministry then made a query to the Department of Archaeology on September 9 to find out if Porir Pahar was a gazetted heritage site, or if there was a possibility to announce it as one, followed by conservation.
A total of 44 government offices, including those of the divisional and deputy commissioners, will be shifted to Kalurghat from the hill if the proposal is approved.
The proposed 'Coordinated Office Building Construction Project' in Kalurghat, on the outskirts of Chittagong, may have its final design approved this month. It may take around three to four years to complete the project.
"We hope the old court building will be declared a heritage building under the Antiquities Act of 1968 that aims to conserve the history and tradition of Bangladesh. This building will be conserved and overhauled for the future generation" said Chittagong Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Mominur Rahman.
"This area will turn into an interesting place to visit when this building is designated as a heritage building."
The building was erected in 1893-94 during British rule. The civil society in Chittagong protested when the authorities tried to demolish the quaint building.
Later, in 2010, a new four-storey court building was built at the back of the old building.
Hence, the 100-year-old court building has been used as the offices of the commissioners and other government bodies.
Mentioning, the court will work if the area becomes a heritage site, the Deputy Commissioner (DC), chief of Chittagong district authority said that, it would run without any disruption, and the Cultural Affairs Ministry of the country would decide which buildings or which part of the hill will fall under the heritage site.
The dispute between the district administration and the lawyers started over the planned construction of two bar association buildings on the hill.
The district administration is describing the plan as "risky" while the association claims they have "permission" to construct the buildings.
To meet the growing demand for lawyer chambers, Chattogram Bar Association moved to construct the two new structures next to their main building.
But citing the Environment Conservation Act, Deputy Commissioner (DC) Mominur said land under the 'hill category ' cannot be transformed into other categories for construction.
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