The Detailed Area Plan (DAP) proposed as a guideline for future constructions, land use and zonal demarcations in Dhaka City is about to be completed. On September 11, 2021, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK), the GoB office charged with the development of the capital city Dhaka, invited local experts, professionals, and activists in a dialogue on the final draft of the proposed guideline. The meeting’s in-person attendees included members of the Institute of Architects, Bangladesh led by Architect Iqbal Habib, members of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) led by Syed Rezwana Hasan, and Professor Musleh Uddin, professor of urban and regional planning at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), among others. Virtual attendeesincluded Architect Mubashshar Hussein, president of Bangladesh Architecture Institute.
Dr. Nazrul Islam, founder of Bangladesh Environment Network (BEN), reacted to the final draft as reported in the press. While expressing the need for further improvement, he noted several recommendations of the Technical Committee as positive and praiseworthy. These include:
(i) the requirement to leave 40 percent of land open in constructing buildings;
(ii) promotion of consolidation into blocks;
(iii) restriction of the height of residential buildings to 6-8 floors to be based on the level of utilities available (not fully clear);
(iv) removal of culverts and box culverts to create 566 km of waterways; building designs to be approved for small plots (up to 1 decimal);
(v) construction of schools and hospitals in each ward to decentralize the supply of education and health services; etc.
Dr. Nazrul Islam also shared his reaction on the final draft with the consultative committee of BEN, excerpted below:
“What is of much interest is the acceptance of the idea that roads in floodplains be constructed as elevated roads. In particular, the proposal for Eastern Bypass has been abandoned, instead it will be constructed as an elevated expressway.
As you know, many of these were long-standing demands of BAPA and BEN, put forward even in Dhaka Declarations of 2002 and 2010. These include removal of culverts and opening up of canals, connecting them with neighboring rivers, and using them as waterways. Scrapping Eastern Bypass was a central demand that (BEN) voiced from outside and (BEN activists) advocated strongly inside government circles.
So, I think we have some reason to claim success, highlight it, and insist on implementation of the good ideas that have been included and demand for inclusion for further pro-environment measures.
For example, I did not see any mention of connecting the canals with the river — something that will require modification of the Western Embankment, through restoration and enlargement of the designed openings and creation of new ones. Without restoration of these connections, the canals, even if some of these are restored, cannot serve their expected role and the problem of water-logging will not be resolved. The idea of drainage through pumps has to be scrapped.
Similarly, the idea of creating 75 underground water storages is interesting. However, it is not clear what the destination of the stored water will be.
The DAP proposed construction of an additional 2,748 km of new roads. This is huge! I am not sure where these roads will be constructed. However, we should caution against a construction spree (such as flyovers) which is now viewed as the only solution to the traffic congestion.
Overall, I think BAPA and BEN should engage with the process. We have been at the forefront of the struggle for a habitable Dhaka, and so we should offer our reaction to the proposed DAP and put forward our ideas about how Dhaka city (and other cities of the country) can be made more sustainable and pleasant places to live.”