Those of us who have grown up around science fiction novels are often found disappointed as cars do not fly yet, or wonder why the world has not yet become a sparkling utopia of metallic structures. However, by this year, when Bangladesh has celebrated its 50 years, it has made many achievements but has so far failed to make its cities livable. To make its cities livable may not be possible within a few years, but we must expect so by the time Bangladesh will celebrate its 100 years – 2071.
Road to sustainable urban development
According to the Perspective Plan 2041 (Urban Transition), Bangladesh hopes to achieve a sustainable and eco-friendly urban development where 80 per cent of the population would have an economic state fit for living in urban areas. Along with the rise in standard infrastructures, urban areas would have no slums, and every household would have the basic housing qualities by the year 2041.
LGED’s (Local Government Engineering Department) Assistant Engineer, Ebsana Saria thinks that by 2071, there would be a balance between grey and green in Bangladeshi urban areas. She explains how the relevant designers and planners are now becoming enthusiastic about infrastructural development keeping the nature in mind. Whether it is about adding greens to the structure designs, or finding methods to ensure no or least amount of harm to trees, they are increasingly trying their best.
For example, she says, Panchagarh and Cox’s Bazar, two districts from the two opposite corners of the country, now look much different within the span of a year. A huge number of development works throughout the two district towns have been initiated on a short-term and long-term basis. These include road-widening, road-side constructions, and even beautification. “The visible efforts show us that the authorities are willing to make this country look more beautiful, as well as increasing its livability,” she said.
Transportation is a key
When asked about the progress in busy areas, she brings up the ongoing MRT (mass rapid transit) and BRT (bus rapid transit) projects, and says though people are suffering for now due to these projects, they will be greatly benefitted when the projects are done with. She hopes that more of such plans in other divisions would be taken up in the future. “Good transportation system not only improves the quality of life for the citizens, but also contributes to beautification,” she adds.
Maintenance no less important than planning, execution
Bangladesh is behind neither on urban planning nor execution, but on maintenance it is. Bangladeshi urban planning takes inspiration from dazzlingly developed East-Asian countries such as Malaysia, and Singapore. “It’s good that we can already dream big, and can see the proof of execution through a number of projects. However, my concern is with the maintenance. We can only hope the authorities wouldn’t go loose on maintaining public properties on a regular basis,” Ms Sadia goes on to say.
LGED’s Assistant Engineer Ebsana points out that the city corporations are working on it enthusiastically as well. The garbage management systems are stricter now. The STS (secondary transfer station) projects are expected to be initiated and properly implemented. Also the drainage systems are being upgraded with the broadening of sewage lines.
Clean streets are a basic, should Bangladesh want to augment its urban beauty. In doing so all over the country, BD Clean team’s Kamalapur Railway Station cleaning project could be an example to follow. The visible difference caught many eyes and went viral on social media in 2019. The project is a reminder of how important it is to keep the surroundings clean, as filthy roads can make even the most beautiful structures look morbid.
Recently an app has been developed by DNCC (Dhaka North City Corporaation), naming Shobar Dhaka. Any citizen with the app can report any issue with a location. Writing formal letters of complaint in school about an issue is also on the way. Be it a road-reformation, street lamp issue, or mosquito problem, simply reporting in the app stands to bring the solution.
Almost every new development project is taking sewage, gas, and electric lines’ planning into consideration. Not to mention, Sylhet as the first city in Bangladesh, has started burying the horrific nests of overhead wires. By 2071, perhaps the nation would see the sky better from the ground.
Other metropolitan cities would perhaps get more attention like Dhaka, and the crowd would be dispersed from the capital with more facilities nationwide.
Ms Ebsana sees hopes in more innovative and sustainable planning in the future. “We couldn’t imagine some of the ongoing projects when we were children. But from the speed of technological development in the last 20 years, we can hope for something even more unimaginable in the next 50 years,” she says.
One of the most mentionable post-liberation structural developments would be Jamuna Future Park. Following the mall, many structures have been developed all over the country. For example, Bailey Road has witnessed 3-5 more high-rises over the last five years. Most of them are built for arcades and restaurants. One or two of them even have astonishingly elegant architecture. Beautifying the streets with artful outlines at day and with lustrous lightings at night is also happening.
As beautification is yielding fruits, its spree has started at many places in the country. A number of brands, especially clothing and restaurants, are beautifying their outlets as a marketing strategy. For example, Aaarong has installed an artwork on a 200-foot long wall at its outlet in the city’s Tejgaon.
De-polluting the air
Amid the urbanisation, Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka has ranked the world’s most polluted city, according to the World Air Quality Index (AQI), surpassing Beijing. This alarming state calls for immediate steps to keep the urbanisation as eco-friendly as possible.
North South University’s student of environment science and management Sadia Afroz emphasises awareness campaigns to keep the pollution in the cities in check. She says campaigns to reduce plastic use and plant trees, though on a small scale, are significantly impacting on preventing the pollution. She urges the government to raise such awareness campaigns.
She says that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report is a must before an urbanisation project starts in the country and that the government should see whether it is being followed properly as there are news reports that tree-leaves in Dhaka are turning grey from dust particles.
Drawing a picture of fantasy
Misba Sultana, an artist, currently working on her science fiction fantasy novel, says within the next fifty years, upgraded technologies would enable Bangladesh to offer its citizens overwhelming transportation facilities like the under-construction Padma Bridge. Air travel would become ordinary, and any person would have the privilege to travel throughout the country within an hour, and people would prefer their housing facilities close to the nature.
Whatever happens in the next 50 years, we cannot say for sure now, but we expect our country and its cities to become livable at least, if not most livable, by the time we will celebrate its 100 years – 2071.
Mehenaz Sultana is a student of English at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology. Email: [email protected]