The number of high-rise buildings in Bangladesh's major cities has mushroomed in recent years. Already having a scarcity of land, Bangladesh does need high-rise buildings to save the few available lands in cities. However, the problem lies elsewhere. As far as Dhaka is concerned, residents feel anxiety over sudden growth of the high-rises at Mirpur, Shewrapara, Pirerbagh, Paikpara, Kallyanpur, Kazipara, Monipur and Senpara under the close watch of authorities. In defiance of RAJUK's building code, some developers continue to construct high-rise buildings at Shewrapara, Pirerbagh, Paikpara, Kallyanpur, Kazipara, Monipur and Senpara. Already, some 4,000 houses have been constructed in those areas.
Recently, some developers also constructed 10 to 12 storied buildings violating RAJUK's new guidelines for narrow streets. Similarly, several hundred more buildings exist in the area while RAJUK taking no action to widen the narrow roads. Over 2,000 houses at Kallyanpur and Paikpara were built encroaching upon roads in violation of Dhaka's master-plan. As a result, local road network has shrunk into 8 feet, from 20 feet to around 12 or 14 feet at many spots -creating severe traffic jams.
Locals fear that rescue operations during any disaster such as fire or earthquake may be hampered if roads are not widened. Fire fighters may not be able to reach the spot through the narrow roads. Considering the gravity of such situation, Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) will address it at the 2nd Inter-organisational meeting with RAJUK and others. During the first meeting organised by DNCC last year, it was decided that RAJUK would play a key role in evicting illegal occupants and widening the access roads of Paikpara and Kallyanpur to 20 feet in line with Dhaka's master-plan.
Although proper plans like DMDP are available with the government, anyone hardly bothers to consult them. Indiscriminate filling of lowlands around Dhaka would have an adverse impact on environment as drainage of floodwater would be impossible. Being an earthquake-prone city, Dhaka has a risk in constructing buildings on unconsolidated soil. Many developers have already started constructing high-rise buildings on filled-up sites around the city. Experts emphasised compliance with the DMDP in urban development. The DMDP has clearly defined the development pattern of Dhaka and its peripheral areas. The DMDP clearly designates all areas of the city and suggests how they should be developed and authorities must respect and follow it while planning otherwise we cannot check urban slums.
In Dhaka, urbanisation precedes planning because the planning procedure is extremely weak and slow. The RAJUK does not have proper infrastructure or manpower and none of the agencies such as the Dhaka City Corporation knows what their role should be. Meanwhile, Dhaka North City Corporation mayor along with the commissioners of different wards visited the proposed 30-feet wide and three and half kilometre long road from Sherapara up to Bangla College. The Dhaka North City Corporation and RAJUK with relevant service organisations held a meeting on January 2, 2017 to widen the proposed road that at some points is 8 feet, 10 feet and 12 feet wide as land-owners have encroached on the road. Meanwhile, RAJUK launched its first drive to demolish part of 50 houses in the area. The Councillor of DNCC's ward No-11 said that he has a vision to turn the Kalyanpur and Paikpara to be part of a modern city like Uttara, Dhanmondi, Banani and Gulshan. To give a reminder to the authority, he sent 19 letters, recommended by DNCC's Mayor, to RAJUK for taking necessary action against 1,123 houses for shrinking the roads.
Since most of the major road networks in the area will be free from non-motorised transport (NMT), according to the Detailed Area Plan (DAP), these roads should be widened to at least 20 feet, to facilitate the movement of NMTs. Thereby making the movement of residents easier. Meanwhile, Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has taken up some initiatives to beautify and widen roads and by-lanes in some parts of the city. Some areas at Mirpur such as Kalyanpur, Kazipara, Senpara, Parbata and Shewrapara have grown unplanned over the years. Against this backdrop, local commissioner of ward number 11 has planned to widen some roads at Kallyanpur and Paikpata.
In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Kalyanpur and Paikpara grew haphazardly under the very nose of the former Dhaka Improvement Trust (DIT) and RAJUK. Roads are very narrow and at some points, car and rickshaws cannot cross each other. The Councillor of DNCC's ward No-11 recently held several meetings with local residents of Kalyanpur and Paikpara and sought their cooperation in widening the roads and by-lanes in the areas. According to one estimate, some 200,000 people live at Kalylnapur and Paikapara. A good number of developers are now constructing high-rise buildings in the areas.
10 years ago, Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) constructed some 100 shops at its depot but hawkers have illegally occupied some parts of the narrow Kallyanpur Main Road creating chronic traffic jams. As hawkers occupy some parts of the main road, elderly people and women cannot walk through the Kallyanpur Main Road nowadays. They have to cross the main road every day. RAJUK and DNCC should take initiatives to widen the roads since unauthorised makeshift shops at the Kallyanpur Main Road create barriers to the movement of pedestrians. Only residents of the road number 12 at Kallyanpur took initiatives to widen the roads.
Now some beautiful high-rise buildings have been constructed at Kalyanpur. But locals have to face hassles as rickshaw pullers and hawkers occupy the entrance of the Main Road. Local residents of Kalyanpur area say that Rajdhani Unnayna Kartripakkha (RAJUK) and Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) should take initiatives to widen Kalyanpur Main Road and the inner roads for hassle-free movements of people.
The writer is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General Education Cadre.