DHAKA city makes the headlines for all wrong reasons. In 2018, the annual global survey of Economist Intelligence Unit listed Dhaka as the second least liveable city in the world. In 2017, another international study marked the capital as the most stressed city in Asia. Civic groups have also raised the issues of the worsening living standards in Dhaka, which how has at least 400 people living in an acre of area when the standard density is 150 an acre. The City Development Journalists’ Forum on Saturday said that the city lacked all the qualities of a liveable city and blamed unplanned, short-sighted development for the situation. Urban planners attending the programme said that government projects, instead of addressing the problems, only add to the misery of people.
Traffic congestion of the city eats up 3.2 million working hours a day. A World Bank report says that average traffic speed has dropped from 21 kilometres an hour to seven kilometres. The government is implementing a Tk 22,000 crore metro rail project to ease the problem but with the capacity to serve only 17 per cent of city residents. Public access to safe water is also scarce. Citizens in low-income neighbourhoods have recently taken to streets demanding solution to the water shortage. As the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority fails to provide safe drinking water, 91 per cent of the consumers, a Transparency International, Bangladesh survey says, boil water to make it safe, burning gas worth Tk 332 crore a year. Studies also show that the level of air pollution in the city is worrying. An increasing number of citizens have started having symptom of respiratory distress and various skin diseases because of the polluted air. Dhaka has only 234 playgrounds. A Bangladesh Institute of Planners shows that the city corporations require at least 1,071 more playgrounds against the number of people living in the area. It was reported that keeping to Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha figures nine out of 10 buildings in key city areas have been constructed in breach of approved designs. It is, therefore, evident that the city authorities lag far behind in ensuring basic services for and protecting basic rights of the citizens.
Urban planners, green activists and conscious sections of society have, in such events, provided the government with recommendations, including the decentralisation and equal distribution of investment across the country, to address the problem of population pressure on the capital. They have also asked the government to stop corruption in public sectors. The large transport infrastructure and other similar projects may facilitate an increase in the gross domestic product, but they do not address the long-standing problems of traffic congestion, water problems or safeguard against fire or earthquakes. The government must, therefore, review its policy priority with a focus on the living standards in the capital and elsewhere.
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