Various quarters are raising questions about the legitimacy of the detailed area plan (DAP) of Dhaka city. They say DAP is not being followed according to its original master plan. As such, it remains no more legitimate.
The Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakhha (Rajuk) has urged all government, semi-government and local government bodies within its jurisdiction to follow the DAP for building a healthy and planned Dhaka city. It said DAP is the final component of Dhaka's master plan.
The objectives of DAP include a planned city with designated land use, conservation of environment, wetlands and open spaces, and planned communications. It was reviewed by a high-profile expert committee, approved by various technical committees and the Rajuk Board.
Yet unfortunately, the government has failed to implement DAP and allowed unplanned development and destruction of wetlands. As a result, the capital city is destined to suffer from irreversible planning and environmental disaster. The DAP through which the capital's master plan was supposed to be implemented, indicates every structure, lake, canal, wetland, retention pond, road, open space and all topographical features, and outlines designated land use.
DAP's 20-year official tenure ended in 2015. Then the government began to work on a new detailed area plan for the next two decades. The DAP could not be implemented due to poor leadership of the housing and public works ministry. Like the existing plan, the new DAP is going to become another tool for promoting illegal development schemes.
Nearly half of the designated flood flow zones and water retention ponds in the capital are owned by the public. Experts say the authorities should urgently acquire those as it would be irreversible if the character of a landscape is changed with unplanned development. Urban planners fear that the subsequent impact will cause food crisis, floods and health hazards.
Dhaka would face large-scale disaster if its water bodies were destroyed by earth-filling at the present rate. Although DAP was required by the year 2000 as a tool for implementing Dhaka's master plan, Rajuk delayed it for a decade in the face of realtors' opposition. The delay helped filling-up of vast wetlands, flood retention ponds and open spaces.
On their part, real estate developers want DAP to be modified in a way that will ensure growth of the real estate sector. They say the government should also think of alternative ways to save wetlands inside the city, as the directions given in the DAP to save wetlands are not practical any longer. They claimed that the DAP was prepared on the basis of a design made in 1992, but the city in that design is not the same as the city today.
Realtors further say the way in which the government plans to save the wetlands across Dhaka and its neighbouring locations are not practical. Nobody can destroy any building overnight to revive a canal or a river, they said and termed the DAP a short-sighted plan.
According to the realtors, the government needs to formulate a master plan with a long-term vision. They suggested that the government should ensure a balance between protecting environment and the interest of the real estate sector.
There is no denying that unless the DAP is fully implemented, the capital city will face an uphill task of dealing with an increased threat of mostly man-made catastrophes. Decades of unplanned urbanisation has finally started to catch up with the city and its over 17 million people.
Urban planners and researchers fear the city dwellers would have to lead miserable lives in near future as the unplanned nature of urbanisation has emaciated the supporting environment -- destroying surrounding rivers and canals and filling up low-lying areas. Water-logging has already become a serious problem for the city as the drainage system is too inadequate for rain water disposal.
The bold stand taken by the government in making the river Buriganga and restoring choked-up canals does certainly indicate that the policy makers are committed to making Dhaka a well-planned city.
But at the same time, success of these efforts is blurred when the authorities become inactive in taking proper decisions. One gets frustrated to see how the resources are being destroyed gradually compromising the environmental and social justice issues in the name of development.
It is thus desirable that implementation of the development projects as per its detailed area plan (DAP) is vital for saving Dhaka from natural and environmental disasters.