The Kuakata sea beach area sees gradual encroachment as a section of people are making illegal structures in the picturesque tourist spot amid lax monitoring and lack of action by the authorities concerned.
Over 200 illegal structures with corrugated iron sheet and wood have already been set up near Kuakata Zero Point including Narikel Bagan (coconut orchard) area although the High Court in 2011 had issued a directive to keep the area free from illegal structures.
After publication of a report in The Daily Star on November 2, the district administration assured early steps to remove the illegal set-ups but no step has been taken yet.
Locals said Alauddin, secretary of ward No 6 of Kuakata town unit of Awami League, Shah Alam Howlader, councillor of ward No 3 of Kuakata municipality, Md Basir Uddin, a member of Bangladesh Chhatra League's Kuakata town unit, and local youth Md Kuddus built such structures to let those be used as store.
Requesting anonymity, several people who leased the stores spaces from these men said they have made payments, ranging from Tk 20,000 to Tk 50,000 for each space.
Earlier, Kuddus built 18 structures on the beach and leased those to local traders. Later many others started the same business by setting up illegal structures.
Of alleged occupiers, Alauddin, Basir Uddin and Kuddus declined to make any comments over the matter while Shah Alam Howlader said, "I am not involved in the business."
Selim Khan, Tahshildar at Mohipur union land office under Kalapara upazila, said they sent a list of 38 illegal structures on November 28 to Kalapara upazila nirbahi officer for sending to the deputy commissioner's (DC) office.
Contacted, Patuakhali DC AKM Shamimul Haq Siddiqee said, "The list of the illegal structures is yet to reach my office. After getting the list we will take immediate step to remove those."
"When I visited the beach area two years ago, it was relatively neat and clean. But now it looks bad and we can't move here freely as so many structures have been set up here," said Aminul Islam Jewel, a tourist from Kushtia.
The authorities should take immediate steps to save the Kuakata beach from land grabbers considering the interest of tourists, he added.
On June 2 in 2011, the High Court (HC) asked the authorities concerned to immediately remove all illegal structures from Kuakata sea beach and take necessary steps to prevent encroachment, earth filling and construction of structures on the beach.
The HC directive came following a writ petition filed the same day by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh on the basis of a report headlined "Realtor faces eviction case in Kuakata", published in The Daily Star the day before.
The HC also ordered the Patuakhali DC to have Kuakata sea beach demarcated immediately by a special committee.
Finally on January 18 in 2012, a HC bench comprising Justice AHM Shamsuddin Choudhury Manik and Justice Jahangir Hossain Selim declared the construction of private structures on sea beaches and shores illegal and directed the government to draw up a master plan to turn Kuakata sea beach into an ideal tourist destination.