Dhaka Saturday December 24, 2011

Better infrastructure for future living

KSRM and The Daily Star organised a roundtable on 'Better infrastructure for future living' on 22 October 2011. We publish a summary of the discussions.

-- Editor

Brig-Gen (Retd.) Shahedul Anam Khan, Editor, Defense and Strategic Affairs, The Daily Star
Thank you very much for attending the roundtable. Our special thanks to Dr. Jamilur Reza Chowdhury for agreeing to moderate the discussion .Many say urbanization is the machine of development, and better life is related to urbanization.Urbanization is not always a bane. It has also its downside. We have to see how to manage urbanization to make a better living out of making appropriate and good infrastructure.

Abdul Momin Mia , GM, Marketing and Sales (Uttara Branch), KSRM
KSRM is very eager to shed light on better infrastructure, and to ensure it we produce standard and safe building materials. To create consciousness about safe infrastructure we are arranging such roundtable as this. We pledge to continue such efforts.

Dr. Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, President,Bangladesh Earthquake Society, Former Professor, BUET
Third world economic intelligence has recently published a report on livability, and Dhaka unfortunately is placed 139 out of 140. The only city which is placed below Dhaka is Harare. This is a very sad reflection on the way we are handling the growth of the city.

Dr. Munaz Ahmed Noor, Professor, Dept. of Civil Engineering, BUET
I prefer the title 'better infrastructure for better living.'Future is a vast term. We should narrow it down for our discussion.

Dr. Jamilur Reza Chowdhury
The intelligence report uses 7 indicators quality of road network, quality of public transport, quality of international links, availability of good housing, quality of energy provision, quality of water provision and quality of telecommunication.


KSRM Message

Shahriar Jahan Rahat, Director KSRM

Our objective as a business group or a manufacturing company is not to do business only. We strongly believe, we have obligation towards this society and the nation as a whole. We further believe that, while doing business in this country, it is our inherent responsibility to contribute to the growth of the country in our own way. Since we are a leading steel manufacturer in Bangladesh we are committed to producing quality steel product to ensure our participation in making a safer and dependable infrastructure for the country.

Going forward we don't want to limit ourselves only within producing quality steel; we also want to raise mass awareness on safer living for today and for tomorrow. We want to evoke the sense of responsibility among other stakeholders of the society as well and seek their participation for this common goal of protecting our future. We do not want to raise issues only for the sake of raising, but would like to unearth the opportunities that lie beyond those and would urge the concerned people to turn those into reality. There is a famous saying by one of the legendary leaders Sir Winston Churchill, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”. We also hope for the latter.

According to the international economy forums, Bangladesh is considered as one of the “Next Eleven” countries to have high potential with promising outlooks for investment and future growth. And to facilitate the growth, we need to be ready with a strong and safe infrastructure. KSRM believes this will only be possible if we are committed enough and we are aware as a nation.

Together we can achieve what no other country has ever thought of.


Dr. Munaz Ahmed Noor
There is always a gap between GDP growth and infrastructural development. In case of Bangladesh it is rather huge. So our quality of life and economic competitiveness with the world or in our internal market is to be considered. This is a huge question whether only government can bridge the gap? It is not possible for the government. It may introduce public private partnership which we see in other sectors like electricity, bridge and so on. But we need it in city infrastructure building which is rare here. Here are two factors: risk sharing and policy change. Another option is public private initiative or private finance initiative. Many experts prefer it .At least, we should support private initiative.

I want to emphasize on modern and efficient infrastructure for better living. We need to find out critical infrastructures .Without it we fail to put our limited resources into our critical infrastructures. As we face many types of urban disasters, we need disaster resilient structure.

Our infrastructure should be climate friendly. We can call it sustainable and green infrastructure. We have very beautiful weather today but we have closed all the windows in the room and are using unnecessary electricity .We have rich tradition like Moghul structure, where the temperature remains up to 30. We fail to follow that line rather we follow western tradition which causes problem. We have to keep in our mind the problem of maintenance of the infrastructure. We do not know asset management. If we take it seriously we would get good result.

The last thing is strategic planning. But politicians are not interested in long term planning. We can coin a new term deliverable infrastructural planning. If we can divide our long term strategic planning in accordance with the deliverable infrastructural planning, we would get remarkable success.

Shakoor Majid, Architect
We are living in a dead city. A city needs 25 % open place but we have only 2%. The number of our structure has gone up by more than 100 per cent than the 50's plan .We have enough roads, but we have no planning. We never think about people's mobility rather we are engaged with car mobility.

Our urban population growth in Dhaka is 6 to 7 percent which is 2% in the national context. We have no plan to increase infrastructur to accommodate the increasing population .We have missed the train. We had options of establishing another capital. If we cannot reduce one third of the existing population of the Dhaka city we would not be able to sustain with our present resources. We can refer to the garment sector. We have 15 lakh garment workers and approximately 45 lakh related to them. If we can establish a new place for them then we would able to reduce a huge population pressure on the city. We have to divert Dhaka-bound migration.

Dr. Jamilur Reza Chowdhury
In the livability index the top countries have 2 to3 people per square km ( p/sq km) where in Bangladesh, even our national density is 1100 p/sqkm. Globally the rate is 46.65 p/sqkm. So global planning will not suit our problem. We have to think new. We see a correlation of livability with density. It cannot be done by planning Dhaka only. We need national planning. Bangladesh deserves unique planning. We have several plannings 1959's master plan, ADB funded plan in the early 80s, DMDP in the 1994 and DAP from 2004 to 2009-10.The government passed the DAP gazette notification on 23 June, 2010. But after three days they declare that another high authorized committee would review it.

M. Mahbub Ul Alam, Member ( Planning ), RAJUK
We are still living in East Pakistan. We did not expand our Dhaka. In other countries they strictly restrict population density. We are now trying to do some betterment. We have planned to expand the city more. We have already succeeded in recovering the Gulshan Lake and Hatirjheel. We have to make plan to expand our city from the zero point taking successive 100 km diameters. Then we will make in one side education city, one side cultural city, industrial city and so on. We have to preserve our heritage sites like Lalbagh Kella.

Shakoor Majid
Rajuk has to define regulations to protect the heritage sites. If they allow destruction then how can we prevent our clients?

Dr. Jamilur Reza Chowdhury
There is a special body for maintaining the heritage sites

Mubasshar Hussain, President, Institute of Architects Bangladesh
There is a provision that you can sell your building's height and preserve the site from further rise. We should follow the rule.

We have to include professionals in the decision making process. Professionals give us DAP, but if politicians fail to work out proper policies to implement it then we would get nothing. Some of our politicians, including ministers, told me that they would not let the DAP be implemented.

Dr. Jamilur Reza Chowdhury
I want to know about current status of DAP. We are seeing some obfuscation about it .Another point is that land developers are not following the DAP. Authorities seem casual about it.

M. Mahbub Ul Alam
There is a review committee under the local government ministry to look after DAP. We have been ordered to forward any DAP related issue to that committee.

Dr. Jamilur Reza Chowdhury
DMDP is going to end in 2015. We should come up with a new plan for next 15 years because present situation has changed much from the 1995.

M. Mahbub Ul Alam
We are doing paper works for the 2015-2035 programme. A DPP has been sent to planning commission. We will proceed with that after getting permission from them.

Mubasshar Hussain
Rajuk is very much eager to implement DAP. But they are controlled from higher authority who are not eager to let it happen.

M. Mahbub Ul Alam
Rajuk has no facility for continuous supervision on structural designs as we have no structural engineer. We have taken a plan to hire private consulting farms that will go through the structural design. We have already published tender in the newspapers asking for the consulting farms. We have to ensure that Rajuk is the body for making plan and design. Other should not meddle into it.

Another issue is maintenance. After construction of the structure we hand it over to the City Corporation. They should maintain it properly. For example, Gulshan Park was handed over to City Corporation and they turned it into Wonder Land. This should not have happened.

Shakoor Majid
There is an authority in the Dept of Environment ( DOE) who gives clearance about buildings more than 10 storey. That means I should get all amenities necessary to live in the building. But it does not happen. The do not look after it. They just go after money and increase the burden of the clients.

Mubasshar Hussain
We have taken the matter to the city development meeting, and the DG of the DOE agrees with us. But after getting back to his office he changes his mind. DOE clearance should be attached to industry, hospital and hotel like structures, not for general buildings.

Dr.Jamilur Reza Chowdhury
Government should maintain only one window to ease harassments of the clients.

Mubasshar Hussain
If we just follow building code then it is enough. We need no further clearance from the government. It covers everything.

Dr. Jamilur Reza Chowdhury
We have three vital documents related to Dhaka city DAP, STP and BNBC. We have already discussed about DAP. Strategic Transport Plan will play a vital role in reducing traffic menace. The government has taken plans for Mass Rapid Transit (MRT). PPP is not suitable for these projects because these projects are very attractive from economic point of view but the financial returns are very low. Without subsidy or soft loan these projects are not viable. Delhi followed the same path. Elevator Express Way (EEW) would be viable under PPP where individual users will pay for using it. In the case of Bangladesh the plan is hindered by the resettlement strategy. Investors went to the bank for loan .Bank authorities asked for resettlement policy, and there is a huge gap between the government policy and the World Bank policy. Government would compensate only those who have legal paper of ownership, but World Bank means compensation for anyone who resides there. So there remains a gap. In India, to acquire land for the Delhi- Agra Express Way the government had to change the laws. They had to pay six times more than the market price. Without changing policies we cannot move ahead. Our compensation means office record which is much lower than the actual market price, and the proposed compensation fund get divided before reaching the original owner. In the case of metro rail project we are facing the problem of land acquisition. If we can solve this problem then by 2013 construction can start. It will be the first serious attempt to solve Dhaka's traffic jam.

Our third paper is BNBC which is a complete code of building structure. Structural vulnerability is the major concern in the case of disaster. We are not abiding by the BNBC and there is a very little effort from the government to ensure that is followed.

Another point is the solar source of electricity for the buildings. DESCO has promulgated a rule to have 3.5% electricity generation from the solar source. I think we should seriously look into the issue.

D S Asif, Architect
I want to focus on the battery issue. Where will you dispose the battery residues? Careless disposal can cause serious hazards. I do not think it is a green decision.

Mubasshar Hussain
Now, for 13 bulbs you have to pay 4.5 lakh taka, which is absurd. We can provide electricity for 1 fan, 1 TV and 2 lights by 25,000 taka only. We should provide this facility in Char areas where it is difficult for the electricity suppliers to reach.

Dr. Jamilur Reza Chowdhury
Why insist on battery backup as every house has generator system now. It is unnecessary.

Mubasshar Hussain
We can save a huge amount of electricity by using solar heater which is very popular in China, Malaysia, and Korea.

Tawfique Ali, Sr. Reporter, The Daily Star
We are not following the BNBC. I have found two illegal buildings of our law makers in Gulshan. Rajuk allows many such unauthorized buildings. We have heard about a mechanism called building code .but it is yet to be implemented.

M. Mahbub Ul Alam
We have taken up the issue seriously .A committee has been formed for illegal high rises. Many plans are passed outside of Rajuk. When we charge the violators they go to the court and get injunction. Then we have to wait for further court procedure and the transgressors continue their business of developing buildings in the meanwhile. This is a frustrating situation, but we are trying to recover Rajuk's image, we need public support.

The official status of DAP is that a committee has been formed where the DAP related cases are supposed to be moved.

Tawfique Ali
The Tejgaon airport area is under the jurisdiction of the Rajuk according to the master plan .Rajuk has not sent any note claiming their right on the land to proceed with a people oriented project like metro rail.

M. Mahbub Ul Alam
The area is under Rajuk jurisdiction, but we are not entrusted to deal with the project. It is under the DTCP. They urged us for Uttara's project of building Depots, and we gave our full support to work out the good project.

Dr. Jamilur Reza Chowdhury
Rajuk only reacts, does not play proactive role. Journalists have dug out the information that the area is under Rajuk's jurisdiction.

Rajuk is incapable of doing all the things. It has now four duties plan, approval, development of itself and infrastructure development. Different committees have proposed the division of labour. High Court ordered for creating a separate authority only to regulate the building code. But these suggestions are yet to be realized.

Cooling bed

ASM Ismail, Chief Architect, Dept. of Architecture, MOHP
DAP is not the first plan for Dhaka. Since the British period there have been several plans, but problems remain in the implementation. We only get deviation and frustration. Why are we asking for DAP? We usually blame Rajuk. Did we not force them to violate? In the 1954 plan we had many green areas, 52 green fields in Old Dhaka. We failed to execute the plan. Our politicians and decision makers lack commitment. We have plan for every Upazilla but nobody follows the rules .We have no manpower at the grass root level to look after it.

Our planners go to Europe but not to our neighbors. If you go to Kolkata you will find massive changes. In the 70s it was a nightmare to go from Chaurangi to Howrah. Now it takes only 25-30 minutes. I do not find any technical gap between India and us. They keep commitment to changes and get good results. Singapur established Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in the 70s. Their only duty was to control development and make plans. Rajuk should only do master plan and ensure its follow up. They should just follow URA. Rajuk should avoid getting into the business of developing housing projects.We have National Housing Authority, they should do housing. In Singapore there are different authorities for different services, and they have proper coordination which we lack severely.

We are yet to get any positive achievement in reducing traffic jam. It is not possible to stop migration at once. In China, people of one province cannot reside in another province. They strictly maintain it. So there is a balance. Another point is that we have to have respect for law and order. DTPC established signaling system spending 13 crore taka, but it does not work. Kolkata used private sector like school teachers for traffic management and got significant success. In Bangladesh, you will find over bridge at the junction which looks very odd. It should be at such a place where you cannot go across the road with over-bridge.

Dr. Jamilur Reza Chowdhury
In the policy volume of the STP you will find all the provisions, but we have no political leadership like Kolkata.

ASM Ismail
BNBC is already here, but we have violated it already in building government structures. Different authorities have different duties in discharging BNBC. We need proper coordination.

According the Building Construction Act you can challenge whether the court can take the case? We have to make use of these provisions. Government gives Rajuk blank cheque to fight cases and hire top lawyers.

Government has made decision to use solar panel, but I do not personally think that it is a green decision because dumping of battery is a huge problem.

We are updating the 1993 Building Construction Act. I urge that those who are the endorsing authority for building should be more capable. We are urging to include these options in the new code.

Dr. Jamilur Reza Chowdhury
There is a reference to ensure that the plan and designs that are approved should be in conformity with the BNBC 1993. We published a gazette which is not comprehensible to the general people. There are regulations for every municipalities but the point is whether it is being followed.

ASM Ismail
Now, we are trying to incorporate the provision that the municipality authorities should follow BNBC. They usually follow municipality Act.

Md Tofazzal Hussain, GM, Marketing and Sales ( Dhaka Office ), KSRM
We are doing our social responsibility to create awareness among the general people. These issues should be widely circulated by the newspapers. If we continue these efforts we will get success. Our aim is to make people aware so that they follow the building code.

We should also look outside of Dhaka. Chittagong is going to be another Dhaka city. Everything is moving in the same direction. The main cause that lies behind our distress is the political will. We do not see any political commitment. DAP's implementation is a political issue. We have to come forward to force them to implement the DAP.

We have to build earthquake resistant building. KSRM is using British standard to protect against earthquake. We subsidize for the sake of better quality and better product.

Dr. Jamilur Reza Chowdhury
If you ensure ductility and strength according to the building code then you are doing your duty .Your social responsibility is laudable.

Mubasshar Hussain
Dhaka is the only capital which is endowed with four rivers around the city, but we fail to use them. I urge you to bring the politicians and policy makers together. Without doing that we will only design and plan but it will not work. We do not need AC. If you go to Northern areas of Bangladesh you will find a small hut which work like AC. We have to use the natural resources first with our local technology then we go for further technical development. We are civilized, but we lack leadership .This is a political problem. If we fail to elect proper people we could not go ahead.

Brig-Gen (Retd.) Shahedul Anam Khan
Now we are saying Dhaka is moribund. I want to say, it is dead. I do not see any hope for Dhaka city. I remember going up for a long walk without suffering a single drop of rain or heat because the entire distance was fully covered with trees. We have killed the heart of the city by expanding it. We have many laws but no implementation. We do not need new laws. Politics has eaten into our hearts. Our politics is personal aggrandizement or group aggrandizement. Why can't national interest prevail over group interest?

We have footpaths but we fail to recover it. I was in Beijing. You can go hundreds of miles on foot without fearing to be rear ones.

Dr. Jamilur Reza Chowdhury
We are second from the bottom as per the economic intelligence report. We get 50 out of 100 in stability, which is good. We do worse in healthcare, our score is only 29.2. Our score in culture and environment is 43.3 and 41.7 in education. Our score in infrastructure is the worst. It is 26.8. In health care it is possible, private involvement makes it possible. We should focus on infrastructure. First is electricity which is pretty much subsidized. Dhaka residents are comparatively economically better off. We can manage higher price if we are ensured uninterrupted supply. In case of water supply, WASA gets pressure from donors for increasing the cost. Now, we are planning for getting water from more distant sources like the Meghna River. This will create further pressure.

Only by planned development and by giving incentives we can decentralize pressure, we can reduce the rate of growth. If we can provide efficient commuter rail service then people will go back 50-60 miles commuting distance which can provide better living condition.

We have plans for Dhaka's proper growth, but with poor enforcement record. Professionals are also responsible. They should not compromise with the code of ethics. Finally, we need committed leadership. They have to look beyond 5 years.