For years now experts have been expressing anxiety and alarm concerning the future of Dhaka city, and the apprehensions are now becoming a reality. The experts have blamed lack of coordination and the absence of integrated planning for this predicament. Then there is corruption and a crisis in management to make matters worse. The bottom line is, Dhaka is becoming an uninhabitable city. We have no idea how much worse things will have to be before the authorities take note.
The speed of vehicles in Dhaka city is steadily decreasing. In 2004 the average speed of vehicles in the city had been 21 km/hr. It now has slowed down to 7km/hr. Experts predict this will fall further to 4km/hr in 2025. We dream of becoming a mid-income country, but will this be possible if vehicular movement slows down to the speed of walking?
The size of the city has been growing in an unwieldy unplanned manner. Water bodies are being filled, canals are being occupied and filled, box culverts are being constructed, drains are not cleaned properly and rain water was no way to escape. The Detailed Area Plan devised to ensure order in the city has been approved by the cabinet, but the government has moved away from its implementation. Now Dhaka drowns even in the slightest rain. Water-logging has become commonplace in this capital city. This is ruining the roads. There is no proper maintenance of the roads either. Half of the city roads are unfit for commute.
There are over 50 agencies involved in Dhaka city, but the lack of coordination among these has been a long-standing bone of contention. How much longer do we have to wait for this coordination? Then there is the continuing conflict between Dhaka WASA and the two city corporations over drains and drain management. If the local government ministry had any gumption whatsoever, this problem could have been resolved by now.
Various projects have been undertaken for the city’s development and these are being implemented. But these are being done in such an unplanned manner that one is hampering the progress of the other. Various agencies are coming up with their pet projects and these are being approved. ‘Development’ is taking place, ‘beautification’ is being carried out, but there is no authority to oversee all this as a whole. There are so many agencies, but none to take care of Dhaka. No modern city can continue in this manner.
If Dhaka is to be kept livable, a holistic and integrated plan must be taken up immediately. Implementation of short, mid and long-term plans must start now. This will require a strong authority. There is no room for delay.