Dhaka megalopolis: From planning to reality

The government must devise appropriate and pragmatic strategies to develop Dhaka in a planned way

Md Emdadul Islam

(Continued from last day’s section) 

As usual, hardly a few infrastructure projects have been materialized according to plan or approval and the priority of many projects has also been changed over the years. The plan period of DMDP has also expired.  In such a situation, a new set of plan packages named as ‘Regional Development Plan’ (DSP 2016-2035) has been drafted and placed for approval. This Plan has been prepared by a group of international and local consultants. Obviously question arises about the success of these new plans in the prevailing situation. If we look back, we see that considering the urban hydro-morphology, the 1st Master Planners were opted for the preservation of open and low-lying spaces either side of the city, but it was not materialized. The 2nd Master Plan (DMDP) also opted for preservation of numbers of Retention Ponds both in the eastern and western side of city limits, as per the provision of Flood Action Plan prepared in the backdrop of 1988 devastating floods in the city. But, ignoring these important provisions, a few influential private developers have already indiscriminately filled up almost all these low-lying areas including canals and rivers. As a result, transportation problems, water-logging and environmental degradation have increased severely in the city area.        

3rd master plan: Dhaka Structure Plan and Detailed Area Plan (DAP)

After the preparation of new draft Dhaka Structure Plan on 2015 in the same way of earlier DMDP Structure Plan, when it was placed for approval in a high-level meeting at Rajuk Bhavan, the Mayors of Dhaka, Narayangonj and Gazipur cities criticized the Plan and asked for its re-planning and obtain public comments on it. The authority has prepared the Detailed Area Plan (DAPs), based on this draft Structure Plan, and amidst the pandemic COVID-19 they also arranged public hearing on this DAP.  After the end of public hearing, when the draft DAP (2016-2035) came to limelight, various professional bodies and stakeholders like Institute of Architects (IAB), Institute of Engineers (IEB), Institute of Planners (BIP), BELA, REHAB etc strongly criticizes the proposals in the Plan. Major dispute rises on the proposition of ‘Area-based Height Control’ strategy. DAP planners proposes for reducing the FAR (Floor Area Ratio) in the inner city areas, which is not endorsed by IAB and REHAB members. Similarly, BELA (Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association) also questions, without the revision/amendment of the Town Improvement Act-1953, how the new plan packages (Structure Plan, DAP) are prepared? However, the Govt has formed a high-power Ministerial Committee headed by the Local Govt Minister to evaluate the plan and its proposals.

A few influential private developers have indiscriminately filled up 

almost all the canals and rivers. As a result, transportation 

problems, water-logging and  environmental degradation 

have increased severely  in the city area

But the main issue is that DIT now RAJUK has never been equipped for the purposes for effective planning and development control in Metro-Dhaka Region. Once had a smaller boundary (569 Sq. km) than its present jurisdiction is 1528 sq. km, the organization is yet operating with a small technical manpower. There are still only a few planners, architects and engineers against its huge volume of works and jurisdiction. As per the Town Improvement Act, though RAJUK is the statutory planning cum controlling authority for Dhaka metro, but it is said that there are now 14-15 Ministries and 45 Organizations involved with the city’s planning, development and control activities. There has not been also any co-coordinating or apex-body for the purpose until today, as a result the city’s overall development and governance now in a mess.

The government has also been implementing some mega-projects in and around the capital city to ease the life of urbanites. There are now SDG program, 8th Perspective Plan, Vision-2041 and Delta Plan Perspectives. So, the capital City’s planning, development and control of-course should be in these perspective Plans and Propositions. The World Bank and Bangladesh Centre for Urban Studies authorities in a joint Perspective Study ‘Bangladesh-2020’ commented that "----a number of Asian countries, with lesser or equivalent GDP growth than to Bangladesh, have achieved remarkable progress transforming themselves from largely agrarian and underdeveloped economies into dynamic industrial and export power houses". The experience of these high-performing economies provides many useful lessons for Bangladesh in identifying the right policies and strategies to adopt, while reversing or shunning what has proved to be wrong strategies. Therefore, the government must devise appropriate and pragmatic strategies to develop Dhaka in a planned way. 


Md Emdadul Islam is an Engineer cum Urban Planner