Interview by Md. Munir Hussain
Considering the primacy of Dhaka, the city must be functional to accelerate the growth of the nation as well as smooth running of the day to day city life, said Engr. GM Jainal Abedin Bhuiya,Chairman, RAJUK in an exclusive interview with The Guardian. He added that proper planning in effect is crucial for Dhaka’s functionally & livability. Alongside this, the chairman emphasized that the aesthetic quality of the capital city is another important factor to build the image of the country.
RAJUK chairman informed us that keeping all these in views; RAJUK is now focusing on plan preparation for Dhaka city. In addition to that, some completed and on going development projects such as Hatirjheel integrated project, lake development projects, multistoried car parking-cum-office building construction, construction of flats, road and flyover across the capital including development control through plan permit are aimed to make Dhaka livable and functional. All these efforts are crucial to accelerate the growth of the nation to him.
As the head of an apex body of the city, Mr. Bhuiya said that it is very important to control the growth of Dhaka right now; otherwise it will go beyond the manageable limit. In this context, he mentioned that whatever it was in the past, currently RAJUK has planned the city to control growth in a planned way and according to the requirement of the plan, facilities are being tried to provide.
The chairman also warned that if growth is unplanned and haphazard, no authority will be able to ensure facilities for the dwellers of the city. He hoped that proper implementation of plan will be effective to prevent haphazard development. In this context, he also urged every one to follow that plan of Dhaka city as well as to abide by the laws of the land to make the capital city livable and functional.
When asked to identify the current problems of the capital city, he said that Dhaka city is beset with a number of problems. Among all those, he identified housing backlog, congested roads, inadequate public transport, utilities and social facilities are as serious ones that have turned Dhaka almost to a non-functional city.
When asked to disclose the reasons behind, he said that absence of proper city planning, its implementation and lack of proper development control are responsible for the situation and when requested to say how to make the way out of the problems, he suggested for good planning practice and proper development control, insisting collective effort a must for this.
A new organogram of 1980 manpower has been approved by the current government. Now it is time to work on it. RAJUK has already started to decentralize its activities through 8(eight) zones. Recruitment procedure of additional manpower has crossed more than halfway. He mentioned this as a stone step in the capacity building of RAJUK for the development of future Dhaka.
In an exclusive interview, the chairman replied to several questions covering the entire activities of RAJUK, its limitations, future plans and contributions, including the different aspects of challenges and development of capital city. His deliberations are highly informative, educative and interesting as well. The excerpts of his valuable interview are produced here for The Guardian readers at home and abroad:
The Guardian: Please give us a short introduction to the founding history of Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK).
Chairman: Dhaka city has the history of over 400 years from its foundation as the Mughal capital. But its history starts back from the 10th century. Rajdhani Unnnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) was established as the supreme city authority in 1956. It is the supreme organization for plan preparation development, development control and management of the city. It was established in 1956 under the Town Improvement Act, 1953 with the name of Dhaka Improvement Trust (DIT). It was reformed in April 30, 1987 under the amendment of TI Act, 1953 (amendment 1987) and named as Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK).
The Guardian: In this context, would you discuss the aims and objectives of RAJUK and say how far it has been able to achieve its aims and objectives?
Chairman: RAJUK was emerged in a situation of ongoing haphazard and unplanned development with the aim of planned and controlled development of Dhaka city. The major aims and objectives of RAJUK are to Prepare Plan, Development and Development Control and management of the capital city.
The Guardian: Keeping this in view, would you say what activities RAJUK is currently implementing?
Chairman: As an apex body of planning and development, RAJUK prepares Master Plan (now in a package of Development plan format including both Strategic & Detailed Area Plan) for its jurisdiction area. Under the following aims and objectives, RAJUK also undertakes some development activities like housing projects, lake development projects, multistoried car parking cum office building construction, road and flyover construction etc. to realize the plan. Other activities include development control through plan permit.
The Guardian: In this context, would you reflect the current scenario of developments of RAJUK across the capital city of Dhaka as well its adjacent areas?
Chairman: The current development coverage of RAJUK i.e. the jurisdiction area is 590 sq. mile (1528 sq. km) from part of Gazipur Zila to part of Narayanganj Zila. RAJUK can perform development activities only within its jurisdiction area.
The Guardian: It is learnt that RAJUK has undertaken a project for construction of a mult-storied green office building for RAJUK itself. Please discuss why this project has been taken although there is a well-established RAJUK building.
Chairman: You know DIT established in 1956 was re-established as RAJUK in 1987. According to Master Plan 1959, the area of DIT was 320 sq miles. Currently, in a situation of densely populated Dhaka city, the jurisdiction of RAJUK is 590 sq miles (1528 square km). To provide civic amenities the strength of RAJUK manpower increased to 1980, on the contrary the space and facilities of RAJUK building situated at Motijheel was not expanded.
As a result, it has been difficult to accommodate the increased number of manpower and create working facilities for them. The new building project undertaken at Mohakhali is a multi-storied green building of international standard. This building will be energy efficient through introducing system of solar power, entrance of day light, flowing of natural air, containing and using of rain water, ensuring of planned use of electricity, water, gas and setting-up of appropriate fire service to maintain environmental balance. So, this building will not only accommodate its manpower, rather it will stand as a site of visit in Dhaka and be fit for gaining certificate for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
This building will have 3 basements, 31-stories of total 10,68,971 square feet. RAJUK will use 2,50,000 square feet and the rest can be utilized for commercial offices. This will help to stop non-residential uses in residential buildings around Mohakhali. Besides, if this building gets LEED certificate, its importance will increase to all everywhere and renowned organizations of home and abroad will have opportunity to set up their offices in this building.
The Guardian: Would you also tell us about the progress of 100-feet breadth canal digging and development project undertaken by RAJUUK in both sides of Kuril-Purbachal Link Roard?
Chairman: On government finance, a 100-feet wide canal digging and development project in both sides of Kuril-Purbachal Link Roard, which is to be completed during September 1, 2015 to August 31, 2018, was given to RAJUK via Bangladesh Army in 22-9-2015, approved by ECNEC. If the 14-km long canal in both sides of Kuril-Purbachal Link Roard project, which was proposed on the Detailed Area Plan (DAP) of the capital city, is implemented, the water retention and capacity inside the city will increase and the underground water level will also increase.
When the project will be implemented, the water logging of khilkhet, Shah Jalal Internationa Aairport, Nikunja, Cantonment, DOHS, Joarsahara, Baridhara, Norda, Kuratoli and various areas of the city will be removed and also the drainage system of the capital city will be developed.
Furthermore, the environment of the city will be developed and so will be the financial and social condition of the people of the city. If the project’s proposed walkway, pedestrian bridge, culvert and grade separators are constructed, the easy transportation of pedestrians or vehicles will be ensured, that ultimately means the traffic system of the area will improve.
The Guardian: As the supreme authority of the city, would you say what should be the characteristics of a capital city considering the present socio economic condition of an over populated country like ours and say what further steps RAJUK authorities should take in ensuring the required facilities for the dwellers of the capital city of Dhaka?
Chairman: Capital city is the centre of socio economic activities of this country. So, it must be functional so that everyday life runs smoothly. Aesthetic quality is another important thing as the capital city helps to build image of the country. But it is very important to control the growth of Dhaka right now. Otherwise it will go beyond manageable limit. RAJUK has planned the city to control growth in a planned way. And according to the requirement of the plan, facilities are being tried to provide. But it must be remembered that if growth is unplanned and haphazard no authority will be able to ensure facilities for the dwellers of the city.
The Guardian: In this context, would you mention the numbers of master plan RAJUK took since its inception till date? In this context, would you please tell us some salient features of the latest master plan and say what steps are being taken to effectively implement this master plan so that the Dhaka city can turn into a complete capital city in true sense of the term?
Chairman: RAJUK having the authority to prepare Master Plan for the capital city under Town Improvement Act, 1953, it took a number of initiatives for plan preparation. The first Master Plan of Dhaka was prepared in 1959 covering roughly 830 sq. km (320 sq. miles). Although, the Plan was prepared for a period of 20 years (1959-79) time but it lasted almost double till the enforcement of new plan in 1995 that is Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan (DMDP, 1995-2015). It was a three tier plan package with the last tier named as Detailed Area plan. The plan package suggests land use zones as residential, commercial, industrial, institutional use, mixed use, etc. and designated Flood Flow Zone, Water Retention Area and Water body in the jurisdiction area. The plan also prepared a road and communication network plan.
The Guardian: You know the capital city of Dhaka is facing heavy pressure to bear the present load of over population. Side by side this situation, the number of population is tremendously increasing here day by day and people from all around the country are rushing towards the capital city. As a result, the concerned experts think that the capital city will no doubt, be in disorder and unfit for human habitation very soon. In such a situation, would you say what immediate step should be taken to predetermine the boundary of the capital city and what realistic plan should be taken to keep the capital city functional in future as well as to keep it fit for human habitation in real sense?
Chairman: RAJUK’S jurisdiction area was fixed to 590 sq. mile (1528 sq. km.) in 1987 including part of Gazipur and Narayanganj Zila. Later, in 1995 Dhaka Structure Plan was prepared for the whole city region to develop major policy framework for the city. The Plan suggests that the whole 590 sq. mile is not suitable for development. Under this, Detailed Area Plan was prepared and gazetted in June 2010. Any review required will be incorporated in the new Strategic and Detailed area plan. But implementation of the plan requires assistance from all the stakeholders of the city.
The Guardian: In this context, would you tell us the present intuitional capacity including the strength of manpower, budget and others of RAJUK?
Chairman: The new organogram of RAJUK has been approved by the current government. It includes manpower of 1987. This major restructuring of the organization will help to develop capacity of the organization as well as improvement of the city.
The Guardian: Though RAJUK is the principal organization in the development of the capital city, but there are other organizations like DCC, Dhaka WASA, DPHE, National Housing Authority, Roads & Highways Department which are also directly or indirectly involved with various types of development work of the capital city. It is said that in crisis of proper coordination among the activities of all these organizations, RAJUK has to face more and more problems in implementing its development activities. Would you please give your reaction to this and suggest what step should be taken to solve these types of problem?
Chairman: Several organizations are involved in the development activities of the capital city and lack of coordination is a major problem for smooth running. But all the organizations must follow DAP and undertake development programme under this plan.
The Guardian: In this context, would you please mention what guidelines are available in the latest master plan in solving these types of problem and say what legal supports are also available in the master plan to meet the encounters with different other organizations working under the areas of RAJUK?
Chairman: The current Detailed Area Plan gives emphasis on implementation of the plan with total coordination of all agencies. The projects suggested in DAP needs to be implemented by different agencies in a coordinated way and with the approval of RAJUK for the betterment of the city.
The Guardian: You know RAJUK has been established as an autonomous body upon the Town Improvement (Amendment) Ordinance 1987, where it has been given autonomy to work independently, but now it is alleged that the authorities of RAJUK are always interrupted in allotting plots by the unscrupulous persons, especially by the party in power to fulfill their undue and selfish interests. In such a situation, would you say why RAJUK authorities are not contemplating to play due role in executing its autonomous powers to run it as an ideal organization to serve all the citizens equally?
Chairman: RAJUK as an autonomous body performs its function according to its rules and regulations. This is also applicable to the plot allotment procedure. In the last plot allotment procedure of Jheelmil, Purbachal; RAJUK with the help of BUET conducted a fair lottery in different categories.
The Guardian: As a matter of fact, would you explain the existing system of plot allotments and also give your reaction to the saying that the RAJUK plots are allotted in a way that only the pre chosen as well as the rich section of people get priority, whereas who need it the most, the middle class as well as the lower income class are always deprived of the opportunity? In this context, would you say whether RAJUK has any scheme or plan for lower income group of people?
Chairman: The existing plot allotment system follows government regulations for different category. It is for all income groups. But for the low income group some portion is designated for therein the current RAJUK projects like Uttara 3rd phase, Purbachal New Town and Jhilmeel Residential Area. RAJUK is going to build 52,000 flats for low and middle income group in those projects.
The Guardian: It is learnt that, according to the Building Construction Act 1952 without the approval of plan by RAJUK, no construction can be made and RAJUK is the sole authority to stop as well as to remove the illegal constructions and establishments. Despite the fact, it is observed that one’s land is being grabbed by the other even hundreds of acres of public or environmentally sensitive lands have already been grabbed by illegal occupants, say by the politicians, touts, musclemen and private business companies, etc. For instance, though Rangs Bhaban was demolished, the BGMEA Bhaban or many others like this still remain untouched. In such a situation, RAJUK authorities seem to be quite silent and have also failed to play its due role in this regard. Would you give your reaction to this and say what immediate action it can take to implement the truth that law is equal to all?
Chairman: RAJUK is giving its earnest effort to save the public land from land grabbers. Due to some stay order from court, RAJUK has to wait until the final court verdict. RAJUK takes immediate action against them after court’s positive decision.
The Guardian: It is heard that regarding possession and dispossession of Gulshan-Banani Lake. RAJUK is facing a number of cases from the land grabbers. Would you discuss the reasons why RAJUK is facing cases in protecting public land despite its having specific laws to tackle the situation?
Chairman: Some land grabbers claim that they have land in the lake areas and files cases but RAJUK will not consider them. RAJUK also files cases against them under Water body Conservation Act, 2000. RAJUKs law department is working hard against them to protect environmentally sensitive land and water bodies.
The Guardian: Would you also inform us whether RAJUK is facing any more cases from other land grabbers?
Chairman: It is true that RAJUK has to face such cases from time to time but the authority is determined to save the valuable environmentally sensitive lands from the land grabbers.
The Guardian: In this context, would you also say what step the government should take alongside the RAJUK to rescue and protect the public lands around the RAJUK areas as well as around the country?
Chairman: Some government initiatives can help to save and protect public lands from grabbers First of all, government should prepare a digital data base with detailed information of land and then government can prepare a land use plan for the public lands for proper utilization of them.
The Guardian: It is alleged that there exists a huge corruption among the rank and file of some particular sections of RAJUK and in close collaboration with these corrupt RAJUK officials, the vicious circles take opportunity to grab lands, pass illegal plans, construct buildings illegally and achieve plots unduly. Would you give your reaction to this and suggest what punitive action can be taken to stop these types of evil practice among the concerned RAJUK officials as well as among the vicious circles?
Chairman: In order to protect corruption a number of steps have already been taken. Any complaint of corruption is scrutinized and penalty is given for the proven cases. Besides that, digital archiving is under process which will also help to protect corruption. At the same time people are asked to complain directly for any such instances. Moreover, RAJUK has signed a contract with IFC for technical support to initiate on line land use clearance process. This will help to mitigate corruption related building plan approved process & also reduce suffering of the people.
The Guardian: In this context, would you disclose the existing system of passing plan and say how this system can be made more effective and free from corruption?
Chairman: In the existing system two clearances are required before construction, they are: Land Use Clearance and approval of building plan. Online based clearance will be effective to solve such problems. Town Planning and Plan Approval Section are working in this.
The Guardian: It is alleged that due to passing of illegal plan, sometimes innocent individuals plot is grabbed by unscrupulous persons by illegal construction. In most of the cases when the innocent individuals become unable to give a big sum of bribe to the concerned officials of RAJUK to get help to save their plots, they do not respond to them, even such cases are available in different zones of RAJUK, including Uttara of Dhaka also. As a result, these helpless, honest people are losing their own legal lands. It is said that a lot of such complaints still remain pending with RAJUK, which are yet to be resolved. Would you give your reaction to this and say what immediate measures can be taken to help the losers as well as to punish the culprits?
Chairman: RAJUK is trying hard to solve the problem with its limited manpower. All the complaints are handled carefully and sequentially. But due to the manpower constraints it takes some time.
The Guardian: Now in Bangladesh, especially under the areas of the RAJUK a large number of housing companies have grown up and many more companies are coming as a fungus growth in the name of development. Would you mention the number of these companies? In this context, would you say on what conditions they are given approval for operation and how they are punished when they violate the rules of RAJUK?
Chairman: Total 132 housing companies are registered in RAJUK. They have to fulfill certain conditions such as absolute ownership of land, collection of no objection certificates from different public agencies, compliance with detailed area plan and layout preparation as per private residential land development rules 2004 (amended in 2012) to go for operation. After that the projects must be approved by RAJUK under Private Housing Project Land Development Rules, 2004 (amended 2012). If they violate rules their registration may be cancelled.
The Guardian: It is alleged that many housing companies are misappropriating the individuals’ money in the name of giving plot and housing apartment. Since RAJUK is the sole authority in this regard, would you say what role RAJUK is playing in guiding as well as in monitoring the activities of the housing companies and real estate businesses under the jurisdiction of RAJUK to ensure the legal rights of clients as well as the people?
Chairman: Housing projects must be approved by RAJUK within its jurisdiction area. It is completely illegal to sell or advertise for sale of plots and flats prior to approval. Time to time RAJUK gives notices in newspapers against these activities. RAJUK even sues against the rules violating housing companies. I also wish that people will be more careful before purchasing plot/flats about their approval.
The Guardian: It is learnt that apart from regulatory measures and plot allotment activities, RAJUK at present performs different types of development works including apartment building and selling to give comfort to the life of the dwellers in capital city as well as to bring dynamism into the socio economic life under the areas of the capital city. Would you mention the names of all those works of RAJUK?
Chairman: RAJUK is undertaking flat development projects in Uttara 3rd Phase namely “Uttara Apartment Project”. RAJUK and PWD are constructing 6636 number of flats having gross area of 1654sft in 79 nos 16-storied (including one basement) buildings in block-A. An MOU has already been revised & signed and the agreement is going to be finalized with Malaysian government for the construction of 8400 units in 100nos 16-storied buildings in block B and C.
The Guardian: Would you mention the number of present population of the capital city of Dhaka and also reflect the significance of the construction of high rise building to solve the severe residential problems of the capital city?
Chairman: The present population of Dhaka city is more or less 15 million which is forecasted to be as 18 million by the end of 2015. Again, Dhaka’s horizontal growth is limited by its topographical conditions such as the flood plains, agricultural lands, etc. So, only vertical expansion through high rise construction in the designated suitable places can solve the housing problem of this huge population. Careful inner city densification will be crucial for this.
The Guardian: Would you also discuss the different other problems concerned with the development of the capital city of Dhaka and suggest their possible remedial measures?
Chairman: Dhaka City is beset with a number of problems. Housing backlog especially for the low income group, congested roads, inadequate public transport, utilities and social facilities; all have turned Dhaka almost to a non functional city. Absence of proper city planning, its implementation and lack of proper development control are responsible for this situation. So, time has come to overcome the problems through good planning practice and proper development control. Collective effort is a must for this.
The Guardian: It is also learned that under your untiring efforts some new development projects are progressing fast to be completed soon. Would you please tell us something in brief about all those projects?
Chairman: RAJUK is now focusing on plan preparation and development control. Hence our new strategic plan (2016-2035) is close to finalize the draft. We are going to initiate the newly revised DAP for next twenty years under the new policy level strategic plan. The full operation of the eight (8) zonal offices in RAJUK area will improve the development control process and send the services close to people.
The Guardian: In the end, please give your valuable message for the people living in the capital city of Dhaka?
Chairman: I earnestly urge all the stakeholders of the city including the city dwellers to follow the master plan of Dhaka city as well as abide by the laws of the land to make our city livable and functional.
Profile of Engr. Jainal Abedin
Engr. G. M. Jainal Abedin Bhuiya was born on 6th April 1954 in the village of Asharampur under the upazila of Raipura in Narsingdi district. He started his schooling in local Asharampur Primary School. He passed SSC Examination in 1969 from Adiabad Islamia High School and HSC Examination in 1972 from Dhaka College. He admitted in BUET in the same year. Then he left for erstwhile Soviet Union under a Government Scholarship Scheme and obtained the Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from People’s Friendship University, Moscow in 1979. He obtained M.Sc. Degree in Environmental Science from the State University of Bangladesh in 2005. Currently, he is researching for Ph.D. Degree in Jahangirnagar University at the Department of Environmental Science.
Engr Abedin started his professional carrier in a consulting firm in 1979. He worked in Bangladesh Water Development Board for about a year and joined PWD as Assistant Engineer in 1981. He served PWD for long 22 years in different capacities at different stations. He was Executive Engineer in PWD City Division before he joined as Deputy Secretary to the Government in 2003. He worked as Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Industries, Director (Technical & Engineering) in Bangladesh Film Development Corporation, Member (Development) in RAJUK and Executive Director, Dhaka Transport Co-ordination Board. He completed his tenure as Chairman of National Housing Authority with high reputation. Prior to his present assignment as Chairman of RAJUK, he performed his duty as Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Industries.
He took part in many local and international seminars and conferences. He gathered experiences by participating in a number of local and foreign training. He visited many countries of the world including India, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Japan, Korea, Iran Indonesia, Australia, UAE, Jordan, U.K., Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Poland etc. for training and other professional purposes.
He is a life Fellow of the Institution of Engineers Bangladesh. He was elected Honorary Secretary, Dhaka Centre of the IEB for 2 terms of 4 years. He served IEB as Local and Central Council Member for many years.
He is married and blessed with 2 sons and one daughter. His wife Rahela Begum, while in service as a fishery officer, died of Dengue Fever in 2000. Throughout his life he is involved many social welfare activities. He is a Member of Officer Club Dhaka, Member of Managing Committee of Local Primary and High School. He is also a heroic Freedom Fighter of Bangladesh.