POST TIME: 5 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
The challenge of making Dhaka livable
Traffic congestion usually worsens due to the rush of the people in the peak hours - moving to and fro during office and school time, the movement of home bound people to enjoy weekend
Rayhan Ahmed Topader

The challenge of making Dhaka livable

Dhaka is the world's 11th largest city and amongst the most densely populated. At the same time, it is consistently ranked as one of the least livable city in the world. Rapid migration, poor city management, low efficiency and massive corruption in service provision are exacerbating the problems. Urban traffic is reaching nightmare proportions, and water and air pollution from poor waste and traffic management poses serious health risks.

 The already acute slum population is growing further, contributing to serious human and law and order problems. Actions to ensure an adequate supply of basic services and to tackle corruption and wastage are needed immediately. This monograph suggests that the management problems of Dhaka cannot be addressed in a piece meal fashion. Deployment of additional resources and massive investment will be required to meet the large backlog of unmet demands. To make this investment effective, there is a need to fundamentally and systemically rethink the governance of Dhaka. The monograph offers some basic guiding principles that must underpin a reform program. It provides alternative approaches based on a review of good practice international experiences. The monograph concludes that in reforming Dhaka, policymakers will need to establish an elected, decentralized and accountable city government; that has well defined service delivery responsibilities; has considerable financial autonomy; and has well defined relationship with central government. Another formidable problem is solid waste mismanagement.

Water logging in during rainy season due to filled up canals and defective drainage system and sewerage is another menace. Of late there has been an increasing institutional concern for a planned urbaniza tion to make Dhaka suitable for living. RAJUK is supposed to do the needful according to Master Plan. The implementing agency like RAJUK has no adequate infrastructural facilities, manpower and recourses to implement the plan. Besides, co-ordination among the operating agencies is awfully missing. Recently growth around Dhaka is extremely unplanned showing a high degree of congestion and overcrowding and malfunctioning of the traffic system. High- rise residential buildings are springing up. Many of such buildings tend to serve commercial purposes. The business activities are found in 'greater or lesser degree all along the roads' and pavements but 'intensify at the cross-roads.' The city exhibits a very high density 'human population' with inadequate space to live and little road infrastructures to move. The rapidly growing urban population in Dhaka and its outskirts is increasing environmental pollution posing 'problems to human health and threatening the general quality of life Environmental degradation stems from rural-urban migration from villages and small market towns with rural characteristics to the metropolitan urban centers full of development activities. All such development activities centering on urbanization come in disharmony with ecological factors leading to 'gradual degradation of life-support systems including air, water and land'. Enormous population pressure in the core of the city even downtowns aggravates situation. Drainage is poor. Most drains remain chocked. Flooding and water logging during rainy season very much trouble the pedestrians. Rain water with waste accumulates. resultantly  roads, lanes and by-lanes become the 'pools of water'. 'Waste-water goes out through open drains which run along the roads. The capital city Dhaka has now become unlivable. It is the second worst city among ten unlivable cities in the world. The ten cities are Dakar, Algiers, Duala, Tripoli, Harare, Karachi, Lagos, Dhaka and Damascus. This is the result of the very recent survey conducted by Economist Intelligence Unit. The parameters used in the survey are health, education, stability, culture and environment. Traffic congestion usually worsens due to the rush of the people in the peak hours - moving to and fro during office and school time, the movement of home bound people to enjoy weekend on Thursday and excessive vehicular movement in the afternoon during the Ramadan. Traffic jam has increased appallingly in the residential areas too which is not a good sign. Now-a-days these areas are throbbing with commercial activities. More there are schools, private universities and colleges, tutorial homes and coaching centers resulting in the overflow of traffic in narrow lanes around these establishments. The parents in these areas that have turned into noisy and busy have to wade through heavy jams of cars, microbus, CNG auto rickshaws and cycle rickshaws to the schools to bring their children back. A desirable state of urbanization with the overriding considerations of communications, traffic system, and housing and residential patterns has been stressed upon recently by the urban planners.

There is a generation of 'organic pollution hazard'.  The garbage spreads everywhere in the form of heaps all over the filthy city points. Now there are dumping grounds in outer loosely built up communities. Well maintained garbage disposal system is lacking. The city corporation is collecting garbage through its scanty resources and manpower. The garbage collected from the residents and offices through van is disposed on the dumping ground. In many city-points some amount of solid waste is discharged into the drains or canals causing a great deal of water pollution. The waste from kitchen throwing out of window is emptied into the river through rainwater. Garbage disposal requires responsible urban governance, which is supposed to give immediate action. There is no denying that Bangladesh is growing fast and Dhaka is growing faster. The capital city also has immense importance in the country's overall economic development. The government needs to ensure coordination among 56 service- providers, as no pragmatic plans were there behind building of city roads, drainage system and even for setting up of street lights. The city development efforts did not have continuity and were not sustainable. Only a clear vision of the people, the government agencies, private investors, and development organisations, and timely actions could ensure building Dhaka as a planned new city. Of late, the World Bank has firmly committed to such endeavor through investments that are needed to transform Dhaka.

The writer is a regular contributor to The Independent raihan567@yahoo.com