Living in a congested, polluted and noisy city like Dhaka is highly testing. The very advantages which attract people to Dhaka are getting minimised. Problems like inadequate supply of water and electricity and poor drainage and sanitation systems are compounding every day.
Whether one likes it or not, the deficiency in city planning for years has made it unliveable and what hurts the people even more is that there is no consensus on how to regenerate Dhaka.
Over-urbanisation continues to plague Dhaka city. Population growth and absence of a proper land use policy are the core reasons for today’s unplanned development. High urban growth rate and high urban density have already made Dhaka more susceptible to human-induced environmental disasters.
With roads congested and potholed, garbage bins overflowing, drainage system blocked and footpaths occupied, the city has already earned the infamy of the “second worst city in the world”. Under such circumstances, several plans like Detailed Area Plan (DAP), Strategic Transport Plan (STP) etcetera, have been drawn but due to lethargic efforts, all these initiatives are yet to be implemented.
At the same time, despite knowing the severe consequences of unplanned development, river encroachment and filling of water bodies in and around the city are going on unabated.
We all know that if urbanisation is an inevitable phenomenon, the need for building new planned housing projects to accommodate the increasing number of people in the city becomes equally important. But this should not be at the cost of harming the environmental atmosphere of the city.
The city has a high rate of consumption of natural resources especially land for new settlement areas, water and energy. The result is an ecological strain on the environment with serious pollution of the air, water and soil. Air pollution, mainly caused by motorised vehicles and industries, in the city far exceeds the environmental standards.
To improve the city’s living conditions and economic development, the authorities have to be involved with building and managing urban infrastructure facilities and services such as roads, transport, electricity, telecommunications, water, sanitation and waste treatment and also social facilities and services in the strategic fields of education and health. However, with the continuing influx of people, good governance within the city administration becomes highly complex. To shape policy suitably, it is indispensable to divide the city in manageable territorial areas and to decentralise some responsibilities to the local actors and initiatives.
Priority must be given to slowing down the urban growth. Therefore, the living conditions and the economic basis in the rural areas must be strengthened to enable the inhabitants to stay there. Thus, it is a vital necessity to promote new forms of cooperation between Dhaka and other parts of the country.
In many countries, decentralisation of urban areas is in progress and is being taken up with greater importance. The aim of this comprehensive movement is to improve urban living conditions by addressing needs as directly as possible and to enable city-dwellers to participate in city matters. Decentralisation also requires capacity building for an efficient management of city problems and other issues.
At this point, consideration should be given on the unresolved development problems, such as growing slum population, mass migration, traffic congestion etcetera which show no signs of abating. However, Dhaka city’s situation is still reversible. It can still be made liveable and to achieve that there is no alternative to taking up a comprehensive approach focusing on both infrastructure development and decentralisation. Infrastructure should be improved up to such a level that people will be able to travel to Dhaka from adjoining suburban areas quickly. This would encourage people to live in suburban areas in a greater number and reduce the pressure on the city.
by Shafiqul Alam