Reports concerning a remarkable initiative currently under consideration of the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) have drawn attention of many city dwellers. The recent unveiling of the plan by the DSCC mayor to build high-rise structures as new business hubs along the banks of the two major rivers Buriganga and Shitalakkha inspires hope to make the best possible use of the rivers. Considered lifelines of the capital, these two rivers, with ample opportunities to bring vast swathes of land under the stretch of the ever-expanding city as well as improve civic amenities to the growing population, offer excellent prospects for both businesses and public habitats along the river banks and across the rivers.
Needless to mention, most major cities of the world with rivers close-by benefit immensely. And Dhaka with the Buriganga almost at its heart could have made the most of it. There was a time when town planners, including foreign town planners visiting the country, expressed keen interest to develop townships/prefectures near the rivers to not only reduce congestion in the populous capital but more importantly to create newer avenues for businesses to grow.
The DSCC mayor and former lawmaker Barrister Fazle Noor Taposh's unveiling of the plan to develop the river banks with the objective of creating business hubs is thus a commendable step. While narrating his plan on the occasion, he, however, said that the first attempt in that direction would require reclaiming the lands along the river banks from unauthorised hands. Focusing further on his plan, he told newsmen that the ultimate objective is to build a 75-storey central business district. Already a project to this end has been initiated by his organisation. It is for the first time that the DSCC has started to prepare a master plan in cooperation with architects, urban planners and others, and in so doing all master plans of the agencies, including Dhaka WASA and RAJUK, are being integrated. This indeed sounds quite well thought-out, and although it is a stupendous task, revisiting the other master plans of relevant agencies is likely to render the present project of DSCC comprehensive and insightful. Often, as we have seen, lack of coordination impedes many worthwhile moves to materialise.
Currently, Dhaka city has to bear the load of more than 20 million people. Of them, the DSCC's 109.25 skm area is inhabited by 10.2 million people. Ranked as the 11th largest city in the world, Dhaka has grown mostly through unplanned development. One of the oldest cities in South Asia, grown on the banks of Buriganga and Shitalakkha with over 50 canals crisscrossing the capital city, it has the potential of offering a natural drainage system and healthy environment for the people. Unfortunately, utter neglect of the concerned authorities over decades has left almost irreparable damage to the canals by illegal occupation and grabbing of the river banks.
So, clearing the river banks would call for unwavering resolve, which might require the mandate from the country's highest court. Last year, as we have seen, despite the dearth of manpower, logistics and related resources, eviction drives undertaken by the BIWTA did succeed to accomplish its targeted task quite admirably. However, in order to materialise DSCC mayor's plan, the drive has to be a 'once and for all' affair. Citizens from all walks of life would support the move and more than anything, the purpose the clearance drive seeks to serve is self-explanatory. However, there is the need for advocacy and promotional campaigns to further motivate the city dwellers.
The impression one gets from the project and the proposed integrated master plan is that this, by far, is going to be highly praiseworthy. All because the work to be undertaken has neither of the two city corporations ever embarked on nor has there been any such move when the two city corporations were a single entity. True, the challenges are huge, but given the will to do it will remove the hurdles that now seem rather thorny. All one looks for is a coordinated move to do away with the impeding factors. Since the plan has already been unveiled with the Mayor's vision and commitment to make things happen, it is expected that preparations are afoot to move forward with the dream of making the capital not only liveable but beautiful and well-functioning.
Materialising the plan would be a monumental achievement with multiplier benefits for a city that has been languishing in utter mismanagement due to lack of farsighted planning. In this context, it may be pertinent to say that the DSCC should circulate from time to time developments of its course of work for public knowledge.