Over 67 per cent of Dhaka city’s open space and some 70 per cent of its wetlands have been lost over the last 20 years in the process of ‘unplanned development’ endangering the liveability of the city, a study report revealed on Sunday.
‘12.68-square kilometre open spaces and 13.22-square kilometre wetlands have disappeared in Dhaka’s 134-km² central urban area as a 22.54-km² area has been concretised since 1999 making the densely-populated megacity the most unliveable city in the world,’ said the report prepared by Bangladesh Institute of Planners.
Dhaka’s total open space is now 6.17 km² which was 18.85 km² in 1999 and the area of wetland 5.87 km² which was 19.09 km² in that year, according to the report presented by BIP general secretary Adil Mohammed Khan.
‘Dhaka’s development in the past years was for profit, not for public wellbeing,’ said Akter Mahmud, president of the BIP and urban planning professor at Jahangirnagar University.
Twenty years ago, an 87.09-km² area of the city was covered with concrete, but now a 109.63-km² area is occupied by concrete buildings and roads constructed over the period.
The open space and wetland include playgrounds, open lands, parks, gardens, canals, rivers and ponds which the urban planners identify as health infrastructures of a city, according to the study.
Destroying health infrastructures, the study said, Dhaka is being developed as one of the most unliveable cities for the purpose of making profit, which planners identified as dangerous development.
Another urban planning professor at the university and a former BIP president AKM Abul Kalam said that as the government agencies concerned failed to implement the relevant laws and plans Dhaka was becoming more and more unliveable gradually.
On different indexes Dhaka has ranked as the most unliveable megacity of the world having some 17 million people.
Most importantly, on the world air quality index, the city has recently ranked as the worst among 242 cities of the world.
Planners blamed failures of agencies in environmental management for the rise of the unhealthy city where residents suffered from numerous diseases frequently.
BIP general secretary Adil Mohammed Khan, while unveiling the report on Saturday at the BIP Conference, presented a 10-point recommendation for reviving a healthy capital city.
The BIP prepared the report by analysing images obtained from the United States Geological Survey.
The recommendations include developing ward-based greenery, a green buffer zone surrounding the capital city, reclamation of the lost water bodies, urban forestation, and controlling the built-up area in central Dhaka.
Adil said that 69 per cent of the wetlands, 67 per cent of the open spaces in the Dhaka urban area had disappeared while 25.88 per cent of the city area had been covered with concrete over the period under consideration.
The green spaces have increased by 37 per cent as a 12.33-km² area of the city which was once wetland like Madhumoti Model Town is now shown as a green area.
‘This area would soon be covered with concrete,’ he said.
Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha acting chairman Sayeed Noor Alam admitted that many open spaces and wetlands of the city had disappeared in last couple of years for different reasons.
The RAJUK has started an initiative to reclaim the lost spaces for the wellbeing of the people in the upcoming Detailed Area Plan.
The planners said that the disappearance of the open spaces and wetlands resulted in serious environmental hazards as well as numerous civic crises like waterlogging, pollutions and lack of services.
Waterlogging will never be solved unless the water bodies that were once used as city drainage were reclaimed, said Akter.
‘Dhaka has become a “heat island” and dwellers are trying to survive by setting up artificial devices like air cooler,’ said BIP vice-president Fazle Reza Sumon.
According to planners at the event, Dhaka has had a number of brilliant development plans since 1917 for different durations but they have not been implemented.
‘Dhaka is gradually losing its liveability as politicians are not willing to pursue development according to plan,’ said Adil.
He asked for the reclamation of the lost open spaces and a re-development initiative for the already-developed area for generating open spaces.
Ideally, a city needs 10–5 per cent wetland while Dhaka has only 4.38 per cent on average but in many areas, including Swarighat and Bangshal, there was no wetland at all, according to the report.
Besides, a city requires 15–20 per cent green areas but Dhaka has 9.2 per cent while many parts of it, including Siddikbazar, Bangshal and Rajarbagh, have no greenery, said the report.
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