Institutional reform is a must to make Dhaka city liveable through the implementation of Detailed Area Plan (DAP) 2016-2035, speakers have said.
As much as 47% of water retention areas in the city have been lost to grabbing. The public transport system is in shambles. There is no proper drainage and sewerage system. And the city has a shortage of about 10 million houses.
Against this backdrop, building only infrastructures is not the solution, speakers said at a virtual discussion on the revised DAP, organised by the Bangladesh Institute of Planners.
To improve the scenario, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) will have to rectify the errors it made for years and decades if it wants to turn Dhaka into one of the developed cities from one of the worst liveable ones globally, they said.
In the revised DAP, Rajuk has proposed to expand the area under its jurisdiction, incorporating adjacent areas like Savar and Gazipur. But the expansion may result in haphazard development, as it happened in Dhaka, unless Rajuk is empowered with logistics and manpower to ensure proper regulation, said environmentalist and lawyer Syeda Rizwana Hasan.
She said Rajuk will have to stop legalising any illegal structure by penalising its owner and clearly lay out how it will recover the water retention areas that have already been encroached upon.
Taqsem A Khan, managing director of the Water Supply and Sewerage Authority, said floodplain zones should be protected. No embankment should be built on the city's eastern side because rainwater will have to be drained out naturally.
"There is no way you turn the city into a pail and then suck the water out whenever it rains," Taqsem said.
The previous DAP will have to be reviewed, and the faults in its implementation need to be identified, said Shakil Akther from the urban and regional planning department of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet).
The revised DAP has provisions for a mixed use of land, meaning an area can be used for both residential and commercial purposes. Rajuk needs to mention the conditions on which the mixed use of land will be allowed, he said.
Shamsul Hoque, a transport expert and professor at the Buet's civil engineering department, said there is no proper road network in the capital.
The unplanned development of roads and flyovers only worsened the situation, shrinking the scope of restructuring the network. That is the reason why the authority failed to implement the bus rapid transit (BRT) from Motijheel to Airport in Uttara.
Even, it has now become difficult to find enough land for passenger pick-up and dropping stations and other associated infrastructures to be built with the metro rail project, said Professor Shamsul.
Renowned urban planner Prof Nasrul Islam said, to ensure housing for all, the revised DAP should mention how much land is allocated for which group of people and where.
Housing for low-income groups should get the priority, he added.
Emphasising the need for proper distribution of land, Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Atiqul Islam said the capacity of the utility services and road networks should be considered before building any infrastructure.
Above all, all the institutions will have to discharge their responsibilities without making any compromise through corrupt means or in the interest of any vested quarters if "we want a liveable Dhaka city," Atiqul said.
The revised DAP is now subjected to public hearing until 4 November. Rajuk aims to finalise it by December.