The densely populated city of Dhaka is becoming increasingly uninhabitable and at the same time the city is losing its natural beauty and balance. Dhaka city seems to have become an example of pollution today due to congested environment, traffic jam and unplanned infrastructural construction. People are flocking to Dhaka like birds from all over the country for different purposes and are staying in this city necessarily or unnecessarily. Bangladesh is a populous country and if most of its people want to go to the capital then it is easy to imagine how horrible the situation could be.
People of all walks of life aim to come to Dhaka and earn more and lead a better life. Employees recruited from different parts of the country are eager to come to Dhaka and they do not hesitate to make various recommendations and lobbying for posting in Dhaka. Physicians do not want to stay in remote or rural areas of the country, they want to come to Dhaka city to earn more and continue private practice. Many parents in the country have a misconception that if they can send their children to any educational institution in Dhaka city, they will do much better and be blessed.
There is a tendency among small, medium and big businessmen to come to Dhaka city and by doing business they want to establish themselves overnight. But the question is why everyone should come to Dhaka? If other cities of the country can be made suitable for education, business and employment, then the pressure of Dhaka city will definitely decrease. The headquarters of various government and non-government offices are located in Dhaka, so people from different parts of the country have to travel to Dhaka for office work, but if the offices could be diverted to different district cities or local cities the pressure on Dhaka would be less. Numerous patients from different parts of the country have to travel to Dhaka every day for treatment but outside Dhaka if big hospitals and skilled doctors could be recruited in different places then the pressure of patients on Dhaka would be much less.
Dhaka city is expanding in size and population Everything in Bangladesh is now centered in the capital Dhaka and due to lack of decentralization, the pressure of people is increasing in the capital and the environment of the capital is being polluted. There was a time when Dhaka city employees used to go back to their village homes after retiring from their jobs but now it is not seen that anymore.
The first census in the country was held in 1974 after independence and then the population of Dhaka was only 16 lakhs but today in the golden jubilee year of independence of Bangladesh the population of Dhaka city has gone above two crore.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), 612,000 people are added to the city of Dhaka every year, which is 1700 people a day. If this continues, Dhaka will become the sixth largest megacity in the world by 2030. Unplanned expansion is taking place every day in Dhaka city and the government has taken various initiatives to make it livable, but the people are not getting much benefit from it rather, the city is facing severe traffic jams, air pollution, waterlogging, waste mismanagement and various other problems. Urban planners say that if Dhaka's population continues to grow in this way, the problem will not diminish, but will only get worse. At present Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) consists of 75 wards and North City Corporation (DNCC) consists of 54 wards. DSCC has an area of 109.251 sq km and a population of 1crore 20 lakh and DNCC has an area of 196.22 sq km and a population of 80 lakh.
According to a survey by BBS and UNFPA in 2016, Dhaka is the 111th most populous city in the world, but if the population of Dhaka is calculated in terms of size, Dhaka is the most densely populated city in the world. It has a population of 43,500 people per square kilometer which is not found anywhere else in the world. Dhaka city has lost 85% of its wetlands in the last 50 years due to overpopulation. These wetlands have been filled with houses and various structures, resulting in water logging, traffic jams and excessive pollution. According to a survey, the population of Dhaka in 2035 will be 3 crore 50 lakh. The population of Dhaka city has increased by 1 crore 52 lakhs in the last 40 years. Dhaka city needs 1 lakh 20 thousand houses every year due to the pressure of extra population but meeting that demand for the home becomes extremely difficult and arduous because the developers can only supply 25,000 houses each year. Due to overpopulation in Dhaka, natural canals and rivers are dying today.
About one and a half thousand factories have been set up in Dhaka city and about 9 lakh vehicles ply on the roads of Dhaka city every day. Numerous brick kilns have sprung up around Dhaka city and 58% of air pollution in Dhaka city comes from these brick kilns. According to a statistic, Dhaka accumulates thirteen thousand tons of dust every month and the presence of maximum amount of lead in the dust on the streets of Dhaka has been noticed. According to the World Health Organization, nine square meters of open space is needed for every city dweller, but in Dhaka city it is just a fantasy.
In order to make Dhaka livable, initiative must be taken to reduce the pressure of the residents. District cities need to build high quality healthcare, educational institutions, industries and employment opportunities.
In general, to make Dhaka a livable city, authorities need to move forward with a multi-pronged plan and of course reduce the pressure of the people in Dhaka.
Majhar Mannan is Assistant Professor at B A F Shaheen College Kurmitola, Dhaka, Cantonment.