Can Dhaka emerge as livable city?

Dhaka,  Sun,  24 September 2017
Published : 21 Aug 2017, 22:05:42
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OPINION

Can Dhaka emerge as livable city?

The authorities should set up satellite towns around Dhaka and connecting them with trains so that people may come to the capital by fast trains in the morning for work and leave in the afternoon for their homes like in Kolkata ta or Mumbai, writes Rahman Jahangir
Dhaka is still in intensive care unit (ICU) as a mayor had once aptly commented on the state of the capital city. The urban deluge it witnesses even at moderate rainfall has unfortunately failed to draw attention of the city fathers although it hit the headlines of local and international press. Dhakaites hoped that after they had waded through knee-deep flood waters in the major roads and localities including, including  the Bangladesh Secretariat,  there would be a forward movement in drawing up a massive programme on emergency basis to save Dhaka and to save the image of Bangladesh. But sadly, it is not to be despite the fact that the capital city symbolises what the country is.

Dr Sadiq Ahmed of the Policy Research Institute (PRI) is quite right in observing in a book that Dhaka city's traffic congestion has reached nightmare proportions. Unless corrective actions are taken soon, there is a risk that this could sharply reduce the city's productivity. "In view of Dhaka's dominance, this could reduce the incentive for domestic and foreign investment and pose a serious threat to the country's growth momentum," according to him.

Unabated migration of people from rural areas to Dhaka poses a grave threat to the viability of the city as this is causing its population to grow much faster than the rest of the country. "This fast urbanisation is putting pressure on the city's limited land, an already fragile environment, and weak urban services", Dr Sadiq opined.

Then there are poor city management, low efficiency and pervasive corruption. Traffic congestion has become unbearable, creating long delays in covering small distances. 

What Dhaka today has to bear the brunt of mass exodus of internal migrants. Just have a look at wayside shanties. Without electricity or toilets, hundreds just spend the nights there. They live under street lights and respond to nature's call either on footpaths or in bushes nearby.  Other cities and towns hardly have anything for them.  Just ask rickshaw-pullers on Dhaka's streets. One will definitely see them coming from divisional, district and upazila towns, from far-away villages of southwestern or northern districts. They do not find any vocations there that could provide them two meals a day.

Countless slums have cropped up in the capital city. Even multi-storied buildings in Dhanmondi, Mohammadpur and other areas built for residential purposes are being re-arranged inside to turn those into mini-shops or coaching centres or accommodate a family of three in one room. Even such a room is being sub-let in some areas.     

But can Dhaka accommodate all the internal migrants of the country without other cities and towns providing income-generating activities? Certainly, not. Can metro rail or flyovers ease intolerable traffic jams in the capital? One can see even some flyovers jammed by traffic these days. 

Dhaka is sinking fast with a population of an estimated 17 million. We heard and read so many times about setting up of satellite towns around the capital and connecting them with trains so that people may come to the city by fast trains in the morning for work and leave in the afternoon for their homes like in Kolkata or Mumbai. Unfortunately, nothing worthwhile has happened in this regard. There is no other way for survival Dhaka as a decent capital but to start working towards the goal of dispersing its ever-growing population. New satellite towns should be built around the capital with train and road connections. The capital deserves to emerge as a fine livable city.

arjayster@gmail.com
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