Dhaka-how could be a liveable city

--Syed Rezaul Morshed Dipu

9. Ar

A survey done by the economist intelligence unit, shows that Dhaka has been rated as the 139th most liveable city among 140 cities. We beat only war-torn Damascus, which is now, occupies the lowest unenviable position.

After getting the news you must think a while, what are the reasons to our poor state? Are the concerned authorities addressing the problems?

The survey is based on five categories; stability; health care; culture and environment; education and infrastructure. We must have scored poorly in all categories.

Surely we get upset and feel uncomfortable to hear the news.

Well, let us take a snapshot over the concern city-Dhaka. Grater Dhaka currently represents more than 40 percent of Bangladesh’s national GDP and its population is growing annually at around 9 percent. Dhaka’s population of at present number of people is projected to nearly double by the year 2025. Dhaka the capital and most populated city of Bangladesh is now a member of the ‘Mega-city’ family of the world.

If we take a look over the history of physical development of Dhaka city from 1700 till now, we found that Dhaka has grown from a small settlement within confines of the river Burigonga and dholaikhali to today’s megacity.

The physical features, topography an demographic features of Dhaka city have always influenced its physical expansion. During the mughal and British regime, political importance and trade played significant roles in the city’s growth and expansion.

Before mughal period (before 1604) Dhaka was small Hindu trading centre.

In the mughal period (1604-1764) most of the development and settlement of the city took place. Dhaka was then called the city of 52 bazaars and 53 lanes.

At the beginning of the British period (1764-1947) Dhaka experienced famines, floods, disease, epidemics and loss of trade and business etc. That resulted in a dramatic decrease in population. However, both population and area of Dhaka recovered and started to expand again with housing, transport, utility, services especially due to Development of health and educational facilities. the people of Dhaka started using piped water supply and electricity in 1874 and 1878 respectively, which caused a great change in lifestyle of the city’s people.

Development of railway communication and road transport were also remarkable.

After partition of India in 1947, Dhaka was made the capital of the province of East Pakistan; Dhaka actually faced many challenges during the Pakistan period (1947-1971) mostly in the early years. Through it neither seriously affected its population growth nor development of different sectors.

Dhaka rearranged itself again as the capital city of Bangladesh after the liberation war in 1971. It accommodates all public and private factories and industries and commercial establishments, the significant influx and natural growth of population after the liberation war made this one of the most populated cities in the world.

Now let us take a look over the urbanization in Bangladesh and population growth of Dhaka city.

Urbanization in its proper sense started in Bengal with establishment of British administrative centers and development of business centers on the banks of large rivers. Urban population growth rates in Bangladesh are the highest among the south and south East Asian countries. Until 1951, Bangladesh was almost completely a rural-agrarian country with 95.67 percent of the population living n rural areas and only 4.33 percent in urban areas. It has increased gradually to approximately 5% in 1961 and then increased very rapidly from approximately 9% in 1974 to approximately 23% in 2001 (BBS, 1991 and BBS 2001)

Population growth rate has increased gradually due to intermigration of people, to get better opportunities in capital city. It happens because Dhaka was the centre of focus of all activities. Most of the Governmental & non-Governmental organizational activities were took place on Dhaka based. De-centralization did near get the priority to our decision maker. So Dhaka has become a over-crowded city now-a-days.

Like all other cities Dhaka should also grown up under a certain designed growth pattern’ which is called the master plan. First Dhaka master plan was formed in 1959. and then there was a development plan called DMDP in 1997.

But these did not get applied properly due to political and economical reasons. Lack of self consciousness and knowledge, is also responsible for this. As a result key environmental resources of the city have been destroyed in course of time. Such as Land, air, water, biodiversity. In parallel with these social situation of the city has also become disoriented. Like population, nutrition,  human health and human settlement e.t.c.

In another key sectors there were also a certain degree of disappointments took place. There we can identify industry, transportation services and management, health care infrastructure and services, occupational health and safety, water supply and sanitation; waste generation and disposal.

But at the same time concern Government sector established different departments which deals with the planning, promotion, co-ordination and overseeing the implementation of different programme taken by the Government for the sake of city development. They also carry out the policy analysis, planning and evaluation, programme co-ordination and monitoring, and evaluation of the environmental programs.

Dhaka City Corporation has some compulsory functions under the Government ordinance. The Government has also plenty of Environment related policies and laws. All core Government agencies are officially empowered with relevant laws, polices, guidelines and other logistic supports to keep the city environment friendly and livable but unfortunately they did not fulfill the expectation of people due to inadequate fund, manpower shortage, technical deficiency (lack of equipment and logistic support), Professional negligence, lack of transparency and accountability. Lack of people’s awareness and rural to urban migration is also responsible for this.

So, end result shows that there is a huge competition for resources within and around Dhaka city. All environmental resources are declining at different pace and scale. Degradation of environment is posing among other, significant health threats for the city dwellers.

Air, water, and land are being continuously degraded with high exposure to chemicals and microbs that directly or indirectly cause numerous sufferings and deaths every year. All these have adverse impact on the socio-economic conditions of the city. Which helps him to hold first or second position from the bottom side of the list of most livable city among the rest of the world !

Now our concern is what should be the recommendations?

the following actions may be recommended to address key environmental problems-

01.          Resolve the problem of people’s migration. ( stop migration from rural to urban area )

02.          A high speed transport system should be established within Dhaka and its surrounding cities.

03.          Create job opportunity to the out of the Dhaka city so that the load can be transferred.

04.          Strict enforcement of existing environmental rules and laws, policies, and guidelines.

05.          Update systems of urban facilities

06.          Improvement of monitoring and management.

07.          Introduce environmental awareness programmes for educational institutions, city dwellers, industrial labours etc.

08.          Ensure transparency and accountability

09.          Immediate relocation of hazardous industries, etc.

10.          Strictly applied the building construction, rules, building codes etc.

11.          Improvement of utility services.

12.          Strong co-ordination between core service authorities of the city.