by Lack of Planning
is a ramshackle, overpopulated city with indiscriminate construction
going on perpetually making city life more and more unbearable.
Over the last few decades this scenario has only gone from
bad to worse. So, who is responsible and what can we do about
it? Fayza Haq talked to a group of professionals who are concerned
about the plight of Dhaka city. They are architects Bashirul
Haq, Kashef Chowdhury and Albab Ahmed, artist Rafiqun Nabi
and journalist Ataus Samad. Here are excerpts of their opinions.
Haq: As we are a poor country, our transformation
from agriculture to industry was very slow. With the result,
some modes of transportation like the rickshaw lingered and
continue to linger. The rickshaw-pullers and their families
in Dhaka city alone would constitute close to a million people.
In the last 15-20 years with the growth of the garments industry,
people started living in temporary houses that barely gives
shelter. We have a serious problem with the growth of slums
in and around Dhaka. The problem primarily is housing of the
low-income group garment workers, rickshaw-pullers and low-paid
government employees also.
express highways, mass transit systems. We have introduced
lots of busses. If you move around cities, you will find most
of the time the buses are clogging the streets. Buses are
short distance transport. If you take a bus from Gulshan to
Uttara, it will take an hour or an hour and a half, which
is a waste of time. That distance should not take more than
10-12 minutes. If we had express ways, mass-transit facilities,
high-speed trains etc, it would have been possible.
at the moment is very inadequate. The way to solve this problem
is to take housing for workers away form the city where it
will be affordable and people can come to work in high-speed
we do to solve the housing problem for the poor? It can be
easily solved if planners, architects, economists, accountants
sit together and think of making something affordable for
the people. Or the government can create a loan system where
amortisation could be for 40 years where the repayment would
Chowdhury: Dhaka used to be a sort of a garden city.
The names suggest that-Shahbag, Kalabagan, Segun Bagicha.
Now it is very difficult to assign those adjectives to the
city because in the last 20/30 years the development that
has taken place has not been controlled.
way Dhaka is developing, it is like making a building without
a clear plan. Dhaka is becoming a linear city as it is growing
more on the north and south, particularly on the north.
is like an island. All around us we have rivers. So the growth
of the city towards the Buriganga sort of ends as there are
no bridges, not enough connections. On the other side too
it's not growing. So the push is towards the north.
city grows you have to be prepared for it to grow in an unexpected
way due to factors like financial prosperity, trade etc. and
then your town planning needs to incorporate such growth.
It needs to have projections to 30, 40, 50 years. Then may
be you need to revise these projections after 10 years.
are many garment industries within city limits. This is one
of the biggest foreign exchange earning industries so it is
very important. These industries are responsible for the slums,
as Bashirul Haq has said.
in slums because they cannot afford the transport fare under
the current public transport system.
we can have export processing zones (EPZ) dedicated to the
garment industry and the workers are given secure accommodation,
they will live there. Many young women working in the garments
industries lead an insecure life.
Ahmed: The original planning on paper for Dhaka city
was done in 1959 by the British. Then the population was about
2/3 lakhs. At the moment we have some 250 square kilometres
of area and a population of over 10 million. In 1995 there
was the Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan (DMDP). It was
for the period between 1995 to 2015. But the plan is in one
place while the development is going on in another direction.
There were different zones-residential, commercial etc. in
the plan but unfortunately those were never implemented. You
see Dhanmondi was earmarked as a residential zone but now
we have universities, schools, offices, hospitals, clinics,
supermarkets and what not.
also had proposals for rapid transport like shuttle trains,
flyovers but nothing was done. So the main problem is the
implementation of the plans.
is the authority that gives permission when we make a building,
be it an office building a house or a commercial facility.
If they are the sole authority, then no one should have been
able to build these commercial facilities in residential areas.
So they have failed in their main responsibility.
design the apartments but the owners are more interested in
how many flats they are getting.
blame the developers because it is their business. We are
all partly responsible. We are working with limitations. If
people don't want to keep open space, we designers can't force
Dhanmondi when you make a six-storied building, you have to
leave five feet from front, four feet from the sides and about
six feet seven inches from the back. When you leave that amount
of space and make a building, it is just a box that comes
up. You don't have any space for plans, you don't have any
space for trees. So it is up to the Rajuk to make bylaws so
that people are bound to keep open spaces.
Rajuk is planning on changing the by-laws and the Institute
of Architects, REHAB and Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon are working
together to make those by-laws more environment-friendly.
Nabi: I will put the blame of jerry-building on the
concerned authority including RAJUK, City Corporation and
the ministries connected to town planning and maintenance
of cleanliness and shape of the growth of the city. These
people in power are just not sincere. The experts at the helm
of affairs appear to be somewhat callous. Behind the evil
that faces us is malpractice. Again there is the matter of
inadequate funding while whatever is available is misused.
too, although they are talented, sincere and hard working,
don't get the perfect connoisseurs of architecture to drive
them on. It isn't necessarily true that the owners of the
estates and buildings have good taste: they try to compel
the architects to go according to their will. They make the
architects toe the line of what they've seen in developed
Far Eastern cities such as Singapore or Bangkok. A lot of
construction in Dhaka is a copy work of what is seen abroad.
The owners are carried away by the façade rather than
the utility value. They forget about the amicable relationship
with neighbours or have little concern for the adjacent roads
like WASA and the Dhaka Municipality moreover, have no co-ordination
between. Someone cuts a road; another comes and lays pipes
along the road yet a third party comes to finish the job plus
they have anomalies at work there.
considers town planning in Athens, where I was educated, and
other well-planned cities in both the East and West -- both
old and new I found more harmony. Doxiadis, who has designed
some of the Dhaka buildings such as TSC, The Home Economics
College, and BARD in Comilla, compelled our government to
follow his plans, rules and regulations. He made high-rise
buildings despite having the Athens Acropolis with a few kilometres
and nothing appears out of place. The old and new mingle together
and could easily emulate such town planning in our own capital
Samad: The first guideline of city planning was completed
in 1959 and subsequently it was revised in 1995. The 1995
plan was an UNDP-funded project. Foreign planners came and
stayed in Dhaka for years.
was just a guideline for the development of a city. Subsequently
what was expected of the Rajuk was development of the city
according to that guideline, detailing out roads, walkways
and open areas but that detailing was never done. It was just
a guideline plan and Rajuk was supposed to get it done either
by itself or through local consultants. They initiated the
process at one point but nothing happened after that.
problem is that if a city does not grow according to a guideline,
then the whole system gradually collapses. Political interference
happens everywhere but here it has descended to the level
can tell a garment factory owner to go and set up an industry
for workers outside Dhaka. The incentive here will be that
money would be made available to him for the purpose at a
very low interest and it will be a long-term loan for say
40 years. The moment the government can give that kind of
assurance, that is when it can ensure a solution for the problem.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004