It is high time urban planning is given top priority to ensure a livable environment, speakers said at a discussion on Sunday, expressing concerns that the government has not yet formulated a national law on town planning.
Even if detailed area plans have been made for different cities, they are hardly sufficient to ensure the proper management of population density, transportation and utility services as well as other basic urban amenities, they observed.
Noting that preservation of healthy environs determines the mode of living of all beings, they said urban planning is instrumental in making Dhaka and all other cities across the country livable.
The virtual discussion was hosted by the Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP) marking the World Town Planning Day on Sunday. This year's theme for the day is "Urban Planning for Public Health".
Sharif Ahmed, state minister of the public works ministry, was present at the programme as chief guest.
He said over the last decade, the booming population has caused the amount of usable land to shrink.
He claimed that the government is working relentlessly to turn Dhaka into a well-planned and beautiful city.
In his address, BIP president Akter Mahmud said unplanned development has already given rise to high population density, degraded air quality, faulty infrastructure for transportation, and a broken waste management system.
The authorities must put an end to the pollution of water bodies and encroachment on them, he said, suggesting that population density must be controlled while every ward in the city should have a playground, a park and a primary health facility so that people can easily access healthcare and a neighborhood in which to socialise with others.
Economic activities will not be well-managed and regulated until there is effective urban planning in place, said urban planner AKM Abul Kalam, also convener of the BIP advisory committee.
Everything from drinking water to waste management depends on development plans, he said.
Terming rapid urbanisation a major problem, Brac Climate Change Programme Director Md Liakath Ali said vertical expansion is riskier than a horizontal when it comes to the management of urban utility services.
A public hearing on the revised Detailed Area Plan (DAP) for Dhaka has been extended for two more months till January to allow for more debate and discussion before it is finalised, said Shahid Ullah Khandaker, secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Public Works.
He acknowledged the rise in temperature in the capital is associated with the pollution of the air, water and soil.
The government is at the final stage of formulating a building code to regulate the construction of buildings, ensuring that penetration of sunlight as well as air circulation is taken into consideration, said Shahid Ullah.
The secretary underscored the need for coordination between different ministries for successful implementation of the DAP.