Dhaka city is fast becoming
unliveable. The uncontrolled spread and sprawl gripping Dhaka has turned the
city into a cavernous 'monster' spreading out in the most alarming manner in all
directions. Total chaos exists in the urban fabric.
Topping the list of problems besetting the city
is air pollution that has reached such startlingly high levels that it has
overtaken Mexico City and Dhaka has now the dubious distinction of having the
most polluted air in the world. The level of its sound pollution must be among
the highest and has become a serious threat to human health.
Among other city problems are the high-rise
buildings both as commercial complexes and residential apartments which have
obscured the skyline and deprived adjacent smaller structures of light and air.
The streets have become grossly inadequate to accommodate the horrendous traffic
of a city of 9 million people. The few open spaces that were the lungs of the
city have been taken over by land-grabbers. Even the beels and low-lying areas
of the city, which used to act as catchments for excessive rain water during the
monsoon and thus alleviate the flood problem to a large extent have been taken
over by mastaans and god fathers, and turned into slums or marginal residential
areas. Almost all the lakes and ponds that used to be the most attractive
features of the city have been filled up and converted into markets or slums.
Even the river Buriganga, lifeline of the capital, is dying due to encroachments
by land-grabbers and large-scale water pollution from tannery wastes flowing
into the river. The population congestion is so acute that Dhaka looks more like
an ant hill than a human settlement. Its waste disposal system is so primitive
and ineffective that one wonders why epidemics don't occur frequently. The
burgeoning road traffic with rising numbers of reconditioned cars and rickshaws
makes passage through the city streets truly a painful ordeal.
The unplanned transportation system simply
amounts to a wastage of time and money, and eventually of national wealth. The
misuse and abuse of available land within the city limits remain the prime cause
for crisis in housing and other basic civic facilities. In fact the whole city
seems to have been "developed" for a small minority at the expense of
the majority and the country as a whole. For Dhaka, the existing control
mechanism has been nebulous and almost totally inoperative.
A city is not a mere physical expanse or
population. A city is like a living thing and its urban features and qualities
are its organs. But when beset with physical ailments in the form of urban
crisis, the city is left crippled and maimed.
In the opinion of experts, Dhaka is headed for
disaster unless the problems besetting it are met head-on with total political
commitment. The problems are monstrous. But they can be solved, if both the
people and the government are determined to do so and cooperate unstintingly
with each other.
The main problem of Dhaka is simply
over-population. The best
way to stop people's migration to the capital is
to create sufficient employment opportunities in others cities.
Landless, destitute and unemployed people make a
beeline for places where employment opportunities are abundant. Subsequent
governments have encouraged entrepreneurs and given them certain incentives to
set up industries in the northern towns. After the construction of the Jamuna
bridge, the road link which was previously absent, has now become a viable
proposition. If the government ensures adequate supply of power and gives the
entrepreneurs certain other incentives in addition to tax holidays and lower
tariff, they will be positively motivated to locate their projects in the north.
And the migrants from the villages in such situation will head for the north
instead of Dhaka. This may go a long way to reduce the pressure of population on
Source: The Daily Star, March10,2001