Redevelopment in old Dhaka is possible by conserving the heritage buildings and traditions, urban experts and planners said at a programme on Saturday.
They noted that all the buildings of the old Dhaka are not historical structures. So, it is possible to redevelop the city by conserving the historical buildings. The owners of the shabby houses in old Dhaka will get bigger apartments along with public places with good civic amenities.
They, however, observed that rivers, canals and ponds are also part of the heritage of old Dhaka. But political will is the main obstacle in implementing the process.
Their observations came at a seminar titled 'Conservation of the Heritage Buildings at Old Dhaka and Redevelopment: What Authorities Should Do and Experts Thought'.
Chief Urban Planner of Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkho (Rajuk) and DAP (2016-2035) Project Director Ashraful Islam presented the keynote paper.
In his presentation, Ashraful said it is possible to develop the old town like other cities if the heritage structures and spots can be conserved and redevelopment takes place by coordinating with all.
Citing an example of Japan, he said the country has increased its public place area through redevelopment along with bigger apartments for the citizens.
Earlier, the authorities used to permit eight feet roads in old Dhaka as most of the people walked, said Ashraful. Now it is not possible to drive a car through those narrow roads.
There is another major problem in old Dhaka, he said, adding: many of the house owners do not have land ownership and they live on the khas land. It is urgent to determine the ownership of the lands before redevelopment.
Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP) President Fazle Reza Sumon said the biggest problem in old Dhaka is the traffic jam. The government has to think about the conservation of heritage in old Dhaka like other projects in the capital.
He called for amending the conservation policies for the heritage before implementation.
BIP general secretary Sheikh Mohammed Mehedi Ahsan said the heritage buildings need to be detected first and then development should be done in the rest of the areas. There is no urban planner in any utility sector, he added.
Urban Study Group Chief Executive Taimur Islam said the authorities are talking about heritage buildings on one hand and shabby buildings on the other.
Many of the buildings were demolished during Covid marking them as dilapidated, he added.
According to data from the government, there are 94 heritage buildings. In 2017, the number came down to 75. But in reality, the number of the heritage buildings is 1,831.
"The list should be corrected first. No heritage building or traditions can be conserved unless there is a coordinated effort. Rajuk, city corporation, archaeology department think as per their wish," he said.