URBAN planning stands devoid of a clear, comprehensive guideline on development project implementation. The planning process has still rather been, as urban planners have suggested at a meeting that the Bangladesh Institute of Planners organised, uncoordinated. No proper institutional structure and legal framework have so far been developed in this direction. They also say that the current process is least interested in ensuring people’s participation in planning. Regional and city plans are rather disjointed and short-sighted. Even when long-term plans are adopted for major cities, the authorities concerned are found to be regularly deviating from the original plans, creating the scope for unplanned development and corruption. The discrepancies between the detailed area plan and the Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan are an example of such flawed process and citizens pay the price of such chaotic and disorganised development.
Two major cities, Dhaka and Chattogram, are plagued with many problems that include but not limited to traffic congestion, water stagnation, faulty building construction and lack of drainage and waste disposal system. In Chattogram, even an hour of rainfall could halt the city life. Dhaka is no different when it comes to water stagnation. A 2017 World Bank analysis shows that traffic congestion in Dhaka eats up 3.2 million working hours a day. The problems persist primarily because all the authorities concerned do not see the problems as interconnected. Urban planner and green activists have for long demanded a better drainage and waste disposal system to resolve water stagnation and the authorities need to reclaim the canals and water bodies to make the system effective, which has not been done. The problems are related and cannot be solved in isolation. As the government’s response to the problems is episodic, no action has been able to bring about any sustainable solution. The recent debate over the jurisdiction of drains opening into the River Buriganga between the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority and Rajuk is an example of this disconnected model of urban development. It is evident from the way city authorities act that they are not inclined to work together. An institutional framework, in this case, can guide the government to develop plans that promote collaboration between agencies, encourage an integrated and holistic solution to problems and prevent episodic initiatives.
The government, more specifically city authorities, have repeatedly pledged liveable cities to its citizens but the promises have not been acted on. The capital city continues to be ranked at the bottom of many world indexes. In order to deliver what the government has pledged, all the authorities concerned must abandon their reductive approach to urban development that promotes short-term solution to long-term crisis and adopt an institutional and legal framework that will act as a guideline on collaborative and integrated urban development. Such guidelines should also prioritise people’s participation in the planning process.
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