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Dhaka bursting at the seams with huge population

Amended bldg construction rules on the cards

Published : 06 May 2022 10:17 PM | Updated : 07 May 2022 01:11 PM

The government is moving forward to update the ‘Dhaka Building Construction Rules, 2008’ to control the population density in Dhaka and the surrounding areas.

Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) has already prepared a draft of the proposed amended rules. If it is passed, buildings of one size or height will have to be constructed in each area under the RAJUK. Population density and height zoning provisions would be incorporated in the revised rules, said a RAJUK official. 

Ashraful Islam, a city planner at RAJUK, said that the draft rules have not been finalized yet. A meeting will be held this month for further review of the draft.

The population density in Dhaka is much higher than the average city population density. However, population density is even 10 times more than the capacity in many areas of the capital city of Bangladesh.

For example, the Dhanmondi area was developed in 1965 for a population of 15,000-18,000 by allotting 1,083 plots. Later, the number of plots and height of the buildings was increased, derailing from the basic plan. As a result, now about 150,000 people live in the area. 

According to the sources of RAJUK, the population density of Ward No. 46 of Dhaka South City Corporation, which covers the Akshay Das Lane and Shankhari Nagar Lane areas, is 1,379 people per acre. The expected capacity of the ward is 150 people per acre. But there are 9.20 times more people living there than the capacity. 

On the other hand, 668 people live in Ward No. 34 of Dhaka North City Corporation, which comprises Zafarabad and Rayerbazar areas, in each acre. The capacity of this area is 167 people per acre. But about 4.50 times more people live there than the capacity. 

Nearly 1200 people live in each acre of land in Gandaria area of old Dhaka, while the number is nearly 80 in Gulshan. 

Experts and urban planners said that people are being deprived of a healthy environment and civic amenities due to the population density being higher than the capacity. 

Kazi Khaleed Ashraf, an architect and urbanist who is also director of Bengal Institute for Architecture, Landscapes and Settlements; said that a city is not mere buildings, streets and spaces; it is a theatre of social actions. Proper plan and action should be taken to make Dhaka livable, he added.  

Prof Dr Adil Mohammed Khan, an expert on urban planning, said that Dhaka has become unlivable due to the absence of proper planning and population density. Most of the areas in the city are over populated even nine times higher than their ideal capacity, he added.

He said that 120 to 200 inhabitants could live in one acre of Dhaka city as ideal density. “There is a direct connection between the population density and the height of buildings,” he said.

At present, the area under RAJUK is 1,526 sq km. Apart from the two city corporations of Dhaka, parts of Narayanganj, Savar and Gazipur are under RAJUK. The buildings in the areas are now constructed in accordance with the Dhaka Building Construction Rules, 2008.

However, the Gazipur Unnayan Kartripakkha Act was enacted recently. Other than the appointment of chairman, other activities of this authority have not started. Once its activities start, Gazipur will be excluded from the area under RAJUK.

The standard of area-based ‘Floor Area Ratio (FAR)’ has been differentiated in the draft. FAR refers to the size or height of a building based on where the land is, the width of the sidewalk, and so on.

According to the existing rules, if the road in an area of old Dhaka is 30 feet wide and if there is five katha of land on the side of that road, then a building of the same height can be constructed in Gulshan or Savar (if the width of the road and the amount of land is the same). At present, the standard of FAR is the same in all the areas under RAJUK.

According to the draft, in areas where population density is high, FAR standards are considered low. That means the size or height of the building will decrease. And in areas where the population density is low, the FAR standard is relatively high. That means the size or height of the building can be increased. 

Experts and urban planners see the provision of fixing FAR standards depending on area as positive. 

The government has been implementing the existing Dhaka Building Construction Rules, 2008 for managing Dhaka’s infrastructures, but the provision of FAR is partially responsible for turning Dhaka into an unlivable city.

All areas do not have the same utility and other services. It is important that maximum height in various zones should not be considered as automatic, it should be considered for individual sites for residential development in the planning process, said Prof Akter Mahmud, former president of Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP).

He appreciated the inclusion of the provision in the draft. 

Mohammad Fazle Reza, president of the BIP, said that many people live beyond the capacity of many areas as the existing rules give the same FAR for all areas. It has a negative impact on civic services and livability of the city. Determining the area-wise FAR will prevent the situation from getting worse in those areas.

Alongside the FAR, three new large-scale strategies have been added to the draft. These include the approval of plans for the construction of buildings, the addition of structural drawings and all approvals for the construction of buildings in a fully digital manner.

According to the current building construction rules, there are rules for conducting ‘Traffic Impact Assessment’ in case of construction of any particular project or large-scale commercial building. So that there is no problem in traffic in the area, and adequate parking facilities are provided in the new building as required.

Muhammad Rashidul Hasan, head and associate professor of the Department of Urban & Regional Planning at Chattogram University of Engineering & Technology (CUET), said that they appreciate the issue of determining FAR by area. He said that Dhaka city is now one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Secondary towns or municipalities of the country are also growing at a rapid pace as well. To overcome the existing problems, proper urban policy is required. 

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