Young Minds and Urban Planning
A bustling road of Dhaka city. Photo : Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
'Salam', 'Barkat', 'Mark Zuckerberg', 'Sachin Tendulkar', 'Khudiram Bose'--these are the iconic names of those who, as youths, have shown remarkable character, such that it will live as long as the history of mankind lives. The youth is the gift of nature; they are not empty bottles that need to be filled but are candles to be lit. The young people are the country's energy, zeal and talent and it is in their hands to model and demonstrate to society the kind of world they demand to live in. And it is time the youth of Bangladesh play their roles in strategising and developing the Bangladesh we envision to have in 2021.
Urbanisation is mostly notable in areas of the world where there are significant population and environmental pressures without much economic growth. Urbanisation in Bangladesh is the fastest among the Asian countries, according to a study jointly produced by the Centre for Urban Studies and UNICEF. But, what is alarming is the pace at which Dhaka city is growing. Scarcity of utilities, migration, booming number of slums, poor hygiene, bumper-to-bumper traffic -- are common scenarios witnessed in Dhaka city everyday and these are nothing but hallmarks of an unsustainable growth. Therefore it is essential that policies and plans for managing urbanisation are rethought before these issues entrench enough to dominate people's lives, inevitably.
Among the many goals like poverty alleviation and combating HIV/AIDS that Bangladesh intends to achieve, ensuring environmental sustainability is also one of the prime goals that is directly related to urbanisation and urban living. Effective planning can only ensure a sustainable urban environment.
Planning is bridging between where we are and where we want to go, i.e. what Bangladesh is today and what we want it to be tomorrow. An unsatisfactory plan can only lead to mistakes and chaos and Bangladesh is a sheer example. Hanging telephone wires, inefficiency of disaster management, the dying Buriganga River are all wake-up calls for us to come forward in high spirits with remedies.
According to studies, urbanisation in Bangladesh is the fastest in Asia. photo : Amran Hossain
March 26 -- Independence Day and an epoch in the history of Bangladesh. On this occasion of 'Shadhinota Dibosh', we proposed the youth of Dhaka city with an imaginary situation of their having freedom to plan Dhaka city the way they wish. While some spoke on the issues of transportation and commercialisation of residential areas, others spoke of possible solutions to these perennial problems.
“Solar panel installation should be made mandatory and tree plantation should be encouraged. Such measures will help reduce heat generation and electricity consumption in residential areas during summer and enrich the ground water level by recharging rainwater in the monsoon,” says Tanjila Alam, graduate from Chemical Engineering Department, BUET.
“The residential areas need most attention. These days, they look anything but residential. A school can be found around every corner, while sprouting 'universities' give a messy and chaotic look to an area that should, first and foremost, be the most organised. Also, there should be certain building codes for certain areas to be maintained under strict surveillance. There is too much of randomness on our streets, with the old crumbling buildings clashing with high-rise apartments,” says Sabrina Haque, an English major from North South University.
“There is not enough public transport in Dhaka city although routes are plentiful. We tend to think of building more flyovers and over bridges as solutions to transport problems. What needs to be done is enabling an efficient transport service by increasing the number of transport vehicles,” says Nishat Zaman, graduate from Urban and Regional Planning Department, BUET.
“What has been done cannot be changed. But we can work on the future. The number of migrants in Dhaka city is increasing every year, consequently increasing competition for scarce resources like water and land. One way of overcoming the issue is by developing more model towns like the Modhumati Model Town,” says Albaab Rahman.
Warisullah, from Centennial College says, "Before permitting any commercial building on a site, the traffic generated for the development should be assessed. If the development increases the traffic, the developer should pay the government a charge to offset road users' added miseries and as a discouragement to such practice.”
As a matter of fact we know planned urbanisation is not easy to achieve, not to forget the limitations in Bangladesh. But let us remember that a stitch in time saves nine and planning is such a 'stitch' that may save our cities and rural areas from degrading to the extent that recovery becomes impossible. For this we need planning, legislation and young, fresh minds fit for the demands of today's world, and who better to provide young and bright ideas than the youth of this country.