Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world. Our population density is about 950 per square kilometres. There is no other country in the world where population density is close to this figure.
Due to rapid urbanisation, the capital city Dhaka has turned into one of the most populous cities of the world. As per the projection of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the city population is expected to grow to 25 million by 2025.
Dhaka city is projected to become one of the four largest mega cities in the world within the next 10 years. The main reason of such rapid growth is over-concentration of major activities and development works in the city.
Arguably, limited development in other cities of the country in terms of infrastructure development, economic activities, educational and healthcare facilities is a major cause for continued population growth in Dhaka.
In the past four decades, rapid and unplanned urbanisation changed the scenario of Dhaka city. The trend of such unplanned urbanisation created enormous economic and social externalities and social cost such as deterioration of the environment.
Traffic congestion, solid waste disposal, flooding, water logging, shortage of water and electricity supply, air and noise pollution, pollution of water bodies by industrial discharge are the common perennial problems of the city.
Rapid population growth creates extra pressure on the housing and land market of the overcrowded city. As a result, housing becomes a problem with indiscriminate proliferation of slums and squatters. Every year more than 0.5 million people are added to the already overcrowded city. It means, every year at least 0.1 million new household units are needed to meet the growing housing demand.
Most of the natural drainages of Dhaka city have already disappeared or are on the way of losing their existence due to unauthorised occupation through encroachment. Such encroachments are taking place mostly through the unplanned development and unauthorised land filling to develop new city areas.
Agricultural lands and low lands are lost to housing development projects. These activities result in obstruction to natural drainage and reduced detention basins which in turn lead to flooding.
To cope with the existing problem of housing and the changing situations arising out of rapid urbanisation, Dhaka city needs a workable planning by means of development control. At the same time, it is equally important to ensure proper implementation and management of this plan for sustainability of the future of the city.
Detailed Area Plan (DAP) provides detailed planning proposals for specific sub-areas of the city. The area plans are prepared as detailed implementation guidelines and framework set by the Structure Plan for different sub-areas of the city. The Detailed Area Plan provide planning proposals for specific sub-areas for the provision or improvement of road network, access roads, community facilities, utilities and services and a detail pattern of land uses.
It is necessary to mention here that a large number of people can be accommodated in existing residential areas having free land and in places where population density is low. Likewise, it is possible that increased population can be accommodated in peripheral areas and new urban areas.
It is never expected to urbanise all the areas of a city. In that case, transportation system, utility corridors and sewerage system cannot function properly. Nevertheless, food grain production capacity makes a city self-sustained. It is found that Agricultural Zone is mandatory for DMDP area. So, all the agricultural areas of structure plan have been proposed to remain unchanged in Detailed Area Plan. Any type of development work is strictly prohibited in the agricultural zone.
To make a city environmentally sustainable, various types of land-use are required along with residential use. Now the question is: how can we accommodate the ever increasing population of Dhaka? In this regard, we must find out a strategy in an integrated manner to settle a large number of people in limited land size. Moreover, we have to slow down population growth.
Communication network plays a vital role in the development of urban housing. Roads are being built without any standard and proper plan. As a result, narrow roads with circuitous pattern are common in Dhaka city. New houses and industrial structures are cropping up along these sub-standard roads. This is one of the major reasons of traffic problem in Dhaka.
It is more important to ensure proper management of existing transportation system than that of having new roads. That is because we have failed to manage our existing services. Without proper management, any future planning is bound to fail. Nevertheless, there are some proposals which are very crucial for improvement of transportation network.
In most of the cases, town planning is still ignored in the country's urban development process. People prefer to develop their lands without following planning norms. At the same time, concerned authorities are unable to exercise their control over law dodgers.
Awareness is to be built among the people to follow the plan. Government agencies must be compelled to implement plans. In order to achieve the goals set forward in the Detailed Area Plan, some follow up actions are required.
For this purpose, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkhya (RAJUK) should take initiatives so that the plan document is easily accessible to all, which can help establish the rule of law. A culture of abiding law must be created among the people in general and such practice should start with government agencies that do not follow the procedure of plan approval during building construction. It is hardly possible for the government to control all the anomalies if people are not conscious and cooperative. Strict measures should be taken against the violators to make people abide by the planning laws and rules.
All said and done, the government should be more practical to realise the problems in the present context, rather than follow a utopian concept. In order to solve housing crisis in Dhaka, the government should consider the private sector as its development partner. Similarly, the private sector also needs to work in cooperation with the public sector by complying with the rules and regulations.