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02nd-Mar-2014

Urbanisation or curse !

By STAFF REPORTER

Cities and towns in the country are gradually turning into jungles of concrete structures in the wake of rapid urbanisation. Urban areas, contribute 6o per cent  to the country's gross domestic product ((GDP). Dhaka city alone contributes 36 per cent to the GDP, which was revealed at a recent   international conference on urbanization in the city.
  Dysfunctional urban management and centralization of administration  were blamed for turning urbanization into a curse. Urban planning should start from union level and must be implemented in phases, knowledgeable circle said.
 Bangladesh has been undergoing rapid urbanization for the last three decades resulting in mounting pressure has been created on infrastructure  and basic services. Four major cities Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi and Khulna- have 44 per cent  of the country's total urban population. And Dhaka alone accommodates 37 per cent  of them.
Measures so far taken by different government agencies to check unplanned urbanization appear to have created little impact. Many commercial and residential buildings have been built in violation of the building code, which even the authorities admit.
 Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) is also being  blamed  for the unplanned growth of Dhaka city for laxity in  supervision, corruption and inefficiency. But the limitation and gross political interference under which  RAJUK works get little public attention,. they said.
. RAJUK authority  has in the recent past  sought suggestions of the political leaders  for development of the capital city and its adjoining areas like Gazipur, Keraniganj, Savar and Narayanganj under a new Detailed Area Plan (DAP).
Unless there is consensus among them on new DAP, Dhaka city cannot be protected from impending disaster, RAJUK said sounding a note of caution. The RAJUK has been facing objections from different quarters in  implementing  the present DAP. The RAJUK chairman himself has stated that there might be some minor errors in the DAP which can be revised in the new plan.  
Unless this is done, he said  Dhaka will turn into a city beyond control. Meanwhile, the land grabbers continue to fill up wetlands and floodplains adjoining to Dhaka city in violation of court directives. The High Court in an order issued on July 27, 2010 asked RAJUK and law enforcers to take steps to stop earth filling, sale of plots  in illegal private housing projects and not to issue advertisements on those.
But the implementation of illegal housing projects continues, reports  said adding  RAJUK. has so far   dismantled  only  some billboards of illegal housing projects.   Under the real estate management law, it is a punishable offence to issue advertisements and sell plots in illegal housing projects.
Influential quarters are putting pressure on RAJUK not to take action against the illegal housing projects undertaken by the real estate owners, reports said. The government has recently approved four such projects and is going to give approval to some other housing projects which were developed during the last ten years illegally on wetlands and human habitations in low-lying rural areas.
Illegal projects have also been developed up on the banks of the rivers Buriganga, Balu and Turag along Dhaka-Mawa, Dhaka-Sylhet highways and at Rupganj in Narayanganj district.
 RAJUK appears to be helpless in the face of continued aggression on wetlands and floodplains causing serious environmental hazards,  reports  said adding  RAJUK,  as it appears, is  helpless in protecting water bodies, flood flow zones and habitations of rural folk.The decision makers should sit with political leaders of all shades of opinion  and reach   a consensus on devising ways and means  to save the capital from impending disaster, it is felt.
The Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) under the Ministry of Food and Disaster management had forecast earlier that 100.000 people may die and numerous others will need hospitalization in case a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in nearby Madhupur fault hits Dhaka city.
The CDMP report identified four lakh buildings in three major cities - Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet -- as extremely vulnerable to earthquakes and would suffer irreparable damages in the event of major tremor. According to prediction of some teachers  of the Geology Department of Dhaka University, Madhupur fault line is very active and too close to Dhaka. It poses serious threat to people residing in Dhaka city.
 Most of the buildings in the Dhaka city are not earthquake-resistant, revealed a recent  report of Asian development Bank (ADB) About 53 per cent  of the buildings have weak foundation. 41 per cent are unstable and 34 per cent  possess weak pillars and columns, it added.  Improper piling, faulty construction, use of inferior quality materials and violation of building code have been found behind the collapse of many  buildings in the city in the recent past.
Most of the collapsed buildings in  the city  have one thing in common, that is, the structures were raised on wetlands. The developers hardly lay foundation from required depth only to save money. Besides, the design of the building, approved by RAJUK is not strictly followed. It is high time that the authorities take urgent and effective measures to prevent illegal construction of buildings for the sake of public safety.