The urgency of Dhaka’s planned revival

In its present state and its continuing unplanned growth, there are valid fears that Dhaka in the future could be a megalopolis , no doubt, but a megalopolis full of slums or shanty-towns, short of infrastructures befitting its size and status and a maze of unplanned urbanisation with spill over adverse affects of the same on all sections of its population. The time to start the putting of a hard brake on the unplanned growth of Dhaka was crossed long ago. What is very important now is starting immediate damage control actions or completely curbing further unplanned sprawl of the city and bringing all parts of it under whatever reformatory activities which may be possible. There are two plans for the city which were drawn up at two different periods but never adequately followed. The plans had existed in paper only but different stakeholders ranging from the government’s own utility agencies to private developers felt no compulsion to adhere to guidelines stated in these plans because these lacked the force of implementation or enforcement.
Enforcement of the plans was a non starter in the first place because these were very general in nature. It is incredible that although the plans were formulated as long ago as 1959 and 1995 respectively, these never acquired the shape of functional and detailed area plans with rules and regulations for mandatory adhering to them by all in the city.
If real improvements in the situation is desired, then the first task in order seems to be preparing detailed plans to cover all areas of the city. The next step would be operationalising of these detailed plans with everybody within the command areas of the detailed plans required to submit to them thoroughly and scrupulously. The first task of the Rajdhani UnnanyanKatripkha (RAJUK), the successor of the erstwhile Dhaka Improvement Trust (DIT), should be making of a master plan for the city taking into account the non implemented previous plans and to prepare its master plan with incorporation of the projected needs of the additions to the population of the city in the future. Dhaka and its outskirts now hold about 16 million people. From watching the rate of annual migration to the city, it appears that the metro population of Dhaka could double to something like 30 million as early as 2020.
If this expansion of the city in the physical sense and in terms of population cannot be subjected to proper regulation and planning from now on, then living conditions in it could prove to be simply hellish only about a decade from the present time. Already, its conventional mass transportation systems and the existing road networks are found severely stressed from the number of users. The stresses are likely to only increase too agonizingly even in the near future without the implementation of plans to overcome them.
Public transportation system is not at all organized in Dhaka.On a week day it sometimes takes three to four hours to travel about 20 KM from Dhaka Airport to city centre. It is chaos and confusions everywhere. City canals in Dhaka no longer exist. The rivers around the city are dying due to lack of dredging and grabbing by encroachers. The waters of the Buriganga and the Sitalakya rivers have become extremely polluted. The subsurface water table is getting lowered progressively due to continuous draw down. The city is getting increasingly vulnerable to earthquake. Gas, water, electricity and telephone providing systems are over stretched. The city can meet only 50% of water supply and 75% of power supply requirements. Dhaka desperately needs massive overhauling in all sectors. To meet the present and emerging challenges there must be integrated planning to save it from the massive crisis that looms large for it. The first task in order would be decentralization. No government sincerely tried to decentralize the activities and relocate various economic activities outside Dhaka. For the sake of very survival we must without delay develop the adjacent districts of Dhaka like Narayanganj, Gazipoor , Tangail, Mymensingh, Narshingdi, Comilla and Brahmanbaria to ease migration pressures on Dhaka.
Dhaka Cantonment may be gradually moved out of the city. This area is a major impediment to the traffic movement. If it is moved out to Gazipoor much of the city traffic congestion will ease. The Kamlapoor railway station and Dhaka Central Jail can be gradually moved out to Tongi and beyond for a similar purpose. The Mohakahli and Sayedabad bus terminals must be moved out. Mahakhali bus stand may be moved to a suitable location between Tongi and Gazipoor and Sayedabad bus stand may be moved on the other side of Sitalakya River. The RMG, leather industries and other industries also need to be moved out of city areas. RMG in the outskirts of the city and leather industries to leather complex well beyond the city’s limits, will relieve the city from substantial energy load and help the environment immensely.
In general, the relocation of different facilities and the encouraging of decentralization, will tremendously help in the planning and establishment of specially transportation related infrastructures such as roads, flyovers, etc., and help the easing of traffic congestion which is presently considered as the worst problem confronted every day by people who live and work in Dhaka. Indisciplined parking in city areas must be restricted. All major government or large private offices must have required underground or multilayer parking facilities. When Kawran Bazar market is moved a multistoried large parking arrangement may be built there by the Dhaka City Corporation. Some essential flyovers and elevated express ways must be built at congested city areas. Dhaka city has three rivers around it– Buriganga, Sitalakhya and Turag. These rivers can be again turned into life blood for the city. These rivers need extensive dredging to ensure navigability round the year. The city circular river way can be a very useful communication route. The dredged material can be used to make city protection embankment and on the embankment the city circular road and even surface rail track can be laid. The excess water flowing through these rivers in the monsoon may not cause flooding if we increase holding capacity by continuous and organized dredging. All the historic city canals should be restored and the canal banks must be turned into embankments. This would help drainage and prevent water logging which is noted to be a major problem for the city in the wet season. As it is, the rating of Dhaka as the second most unlivable city in the world, seems to be too exaggerated or lacking in objectivity. But that should not detract attention from the worsening problems of Dhaka. If these problems are not addressed very competently from now on with absolute resolve, then Dhaka could become deserving for the description of the second worst city, sooner rather than later.