The Detailed Area Plan, which got final approval yesterday, aims to make Dhaka a better liveable city by keeping population density of different areas proportionate to civic amenities and developing planned infrastructures in a wider area to accommodate 60 lakh more people by 2035, amid realtors' worries about housing price inflation.
The 20-year plan (2016-2035), which has already lost five years, comes on the heels of the Dhaka Structure Plan 1995-2015 of the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), which could not make much headway mainly due to a lack of cooperation from stakeholders including real estate businesses.
The Detailed Area Plan proposes major reforms in the most populous areas of Dhaka like Lalbagh, Bangshal, Sabujbagh and Gandaria, with a population density of 700-800 per acre which is the highest in the world.
It wants to maintain a population density of 200 people per acre in central Dhaka, 250 per acre in the Old Dhaka areas. The DAP has also proposed a population density of 180 people per acre in Gazipur, Narayanganj, Savar, Purbachal and Jhilmil urban areas, and 150 people per acre for other urban areas.
The Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh (REHAB) wanted the government not to approve the plan out of their concerns that if the plan is implemented, building sizes will be reduced by 33%-53%, which will drive flat prices up by at least 50% and cause flats to go beyond the purchasing power of the buyers.
In the first week of December, REHAB had written to the prime minister, requesting her not to implement the new Dhaka Building Construction Rules, which, it feared, would affect 269 allied industries of the housing sector as well.
Speaking to The Business Standard on Thursday, Alamgir Shamsul Alamin, president of REHAB, said, "We demanded that the proposed DAP not be finalised now. I don't know if our proposals were included [in the DAP] at today's meeting. After seeing the details, I can speak about the problems of DAP."
LGRD Minister and Convener of the cabinet committee on DAP Tajul Islam said there is scope to review any demands or objections of the business community.
"The review committee will hold meetings every three months after it is finalised. All objections and opinions will be reviewed. If there is a need for correction somewhere, it will be done at the discretion of everyone," said Minister Tajul on Thursday after the final approval.
DAP Project Director Ashraful Islam termed the demands of realtors as "completely unreasonable".
"We have prepared the plan considering the future of Dhaka in 2035 so that no area is overpopulated. We have also proposed some rules and regulations for mixed land use to ensure environmental protection," he said, detailing the key features of the new plan.
"We have also identified agricultural, institutional and flood prone areas, water bodies, forests, open spaces to ensure proper use of land. New instructions have been given for pedestrian and non-pedestrian traffic too," he added.
The DAP project director also mentioned that Dhaka is at the bottom of the list of liveable cities as the Dhaka Structure Plan, which called for the protection of 530 water bodies and 220 canals, could not be implemented.
Regarding the reduction in the size of the building in the proposed DAP, he said, "The size of the building has been proposed in the light of the width of the roads. Regional parks, water parks, eco-parks, playgrounds, schools, colleges and hospitals have also been proposed keeping in proportion to the population to make an eco-friendly city."
"If the new DAP is implemented, people will be able to own houses according to their ability. The dreams of middle and lower-middle class people will be fulfilled. By 2050, Dhaka will be able to accommodate 60 lakh more people," he added.
Ashraful Islam said that the DAP has been formulated emphasising civic amenities after a close study of the detailed plans of almost all the megacities of the world.
Experts say the new DAP needs to be implemented quickly to save Dhaka despite having some shortcomings. However, they said it should be gazetted without reducing the height of the buildings by ensuring enough light and air for each plot, leaving open space for trees and keeping facilities to absorb rain water in the ground.
Dr Adil Muhammad Khan, general secretary of Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP), told The Business Standard, "The construction of high-rise residential buildings has no direct relation with the increase in population density of the city. It will not be possible to control the population density directly by reducing the height of buildings."
He said, "The new DAP has added some issues that were necessary. However, the future of the city will depend on the extent to which the initiatives are implemented."
What's in the plan
The new DAP has identified 54 locations for lower and lower middle-class housing where flats with a size of 650-700 square feet will be made, said DAP Project Director Ashraful.
These housing projects will be built by Rajuk and realtor companies and handed over to the low-income people through special incentives, the project director said.
The new DAP includes Gazipur and Narayanganj City Corporation areas, Banshi river in Savar, Kaliganj-Rupganj and Keraniganj into Rajuk.
As per the plan, 60% of the 1,528 sq km area of Rajuk has been considered as a city area.
According to the DAP, currently, there are 228 km inter-regional connecting roads in Dhaka which would be increased to 291 km. It also proposed to extend the collector road by 1,200 km.
There is also a plan for creating a 202-km cycle lane and 574 km waterways in the DAP.
The construction of five large regional parks, 49 water parks, eight large eco-parks (including Bhawal forest), nine other parks and playgrounds has also been proposed to create an eco-friendly city. To ensure education and health care 627 schools and 287 hospitals will be constructed in the region.
The new DAP proposed to create a cultural zone surrounding the Buriganga River. It also recommended preserving the historical sites and turning them into tourism and recreation centers.