Published:  12:42 AM, 14 September 2018

For a smart capital

Megacity Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, has turned into one of the least livable cities across the world by putting itself in the second position among 140 cities, according to a recent survey conducted by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), a London-based forecasting and advisory service provider.

The survey result is definitely unexpected. Such ranking for a city is hard to accept since Dhaka made glaring instances of hosting so many international events, including ICC World Cup and T20 Cricket World Cup in the near past. Why Dhaka is compared to disgraceful economies like Lagos of Nigeria (38.5), Karachi of Pakistan (40.9), and Port Moresby of Papua New Guinea (41) is unknown.

Nevertheless, against the backdrop of the recent announcement by EIU, the visiting foreign guests as well as foreign staff deployed in the embassies of different countries have probably taken a strong decision to take assignments of another livable cities where life standard is highly viewed to them since environmental and crime issues rose their concern to a great extent.

Poor healthcare services and unavailability of adequate infrastructures made the score unfortunate. Criminal activities, civil unrest, terrorism etc are also responsible for such a low score. Dhaka's overall score was 38 out of 100 in the survey. Categorically, Dhaka scored 50 in stability, 41.7 in education, 40.5 in culture and environment, 29.2 in healthcare and 26.8 in infrastructure.

There is no denying that the ruling government and Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha (RAJUK), the development authority of the capital, are leaving no stones unturned to prove Dhaka as one of beautiful and livable cities across the globe through undertaking a good number of mega projects, out of which some have already gained momentum.

Dhaka city is running forward with its poor capacity of providing health services, settlements with inadequate standard for new jobseekers, wage earners, domestic helps and for other needy groups. At present, Dhaka city has been brought under good control from criminal activities.

Dhaka appeared as the capital of East Bengal in 1947 and subsequently in 1971 immediately after emerging as an Independent country after a 9-month-long bloodbath in the battle against Pakistani troops who ruled the then East Pakistan through a tyrannical means. RAJUK in its website shows that in 1951 the city's population was 0.28 million and after 20 years the number was recorded 1.2 million in 1971.

After the war of liberation in 1971, Dhaka started its journey of becoming one of the fastest growing cities in the world, according to RAJUK website.  When Dhaka was officially declared the capital in 1971, the number of population was recorded only 1.2 million whereas, in 1947, the figure was 0.28 million. The World Bank (WB) in its study revealed that around 18 million people are currently living in this city.

Actually, the city began to invite people from every corner of the country by creating huge work opportunities in offices, financial institutions and other organizations. The plan of decentralizing key offices at that time had been absent from the agenda taken by then rulers, which now proves unwise.

Unplanned growth of business establishments, shopping malls, educational institutions, hospitals, diagnostic centers, snack zones alongside thousands of illegal buildings denying RAJUK approval plan put the city to its current ranking, although RAJUK, the watchdog of the capital, is trying its level best to bring back its smart look through introducing new plans every year.

Some mega plans and projects undertaken by the ruling government have already earned reputation from all walks of life residing in the city. Moreover, Detailed Area Plan (DAP) of RAJUK includes a good number of eye-catching projects which would show Dhaka as one of global famed cities.

Nevertheless, the reason of being the second is regular rush of vast population towards Dhaka  boarding on different modes of transport, whose number is many leaving their decades old ancestral living places. The state is obliged to accommodate them plus providing with required work facilities along with basic needs. There is no answer how the city would handle untold issues for vast population living here in the city.

The city is being expanded in many ways and its existing offices are being relocated for the sake of city's brand image to the world. This survey puts all of us in a dire situation why Dhaka was ranked second after war-torn Syrian capital Damascus. Bangladesh was known as a war-torn state after 1971. Now the country's divisional cities are being adorned, in planned ways, with beautiful structures putting importance to the environment issues.

Since the country is going to achieve the status of becoming a developing nation in 2021, the state must take preventive measures on hand to overcome the disgrace it put on in the EIU report. We are now getting global appreciation in terms of all-side growth.

Success in reduction of poverty rate, child mortality rate, mother mortality rate, among other sectors, has been achieved so far. But, Dhaka has lost its traditional brand image in the EIU report due to absence of good management. This dishonor for the nation must be removed by ensuring all-out efforts from all sections of society.

The country has reshaped Rajshahi into a modern city and the UN has declared it the best livable city in Bangladesh. Beautification of Rajshahi cost nothing but undertaking well-planned initiatives. So, it is easier to bring Dhaka back its lost luster to transform it as one of the best livable cities like Vienna, Austria's capital which is ranked first.

If possible, relocation of the industries relating to apparel, private-owned business corporate houses except head offices of financial institutions ruled by Bangladesh Bank are a must. Unplanned residential zones should also be addressed under the re-design programs where residential facilities are seldom viewed.

Naturally, the city dwellers feel discomfort to breathe in the polluted air that comes out from increasing factories, brick kilns which emit harmful waste and fume to environment causing difficulties to human survival.  Buriganga, which Dhaka is located on, is not spared from waste thrown from the riverside plants and factories.

Though the environmentalists and think-tanks raised their voices many times for the protection of people from pollution and unrecorded criminal incidents, no improvement in terms of keeping Dhaka free from pollution appeared in view.

Tree plantation habit of the city dwellers on a large scale could fight the man-made and factory-produced pollution, and Dhaka might have been placed as the most livable places in coming days. Among others, the indecent traffic management should also be restructured, alongside stopping operations of tattered and unfit vehicles in the streets.
And above all, consulting experts might be arranged in order for devising the plan to give the city a look of a smart capital.

The writer is a columnist and currently serving at Social Islami Bank Ltd.

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