Modern Dhaka key to achieve upper-middle income status: experts


DHAKA, July 19, 2017 (BSS) – A modern Dhaka is the key to achieve the country’s target of upper-middle income status, experts at a high level international conference said here today.

They said the urban growth of Dhaka should be managed efficiently with effective measures to achieve the vision of becoming an upper-middle income country by 2021. The measures would include taking full advantage of East Dhaka where ample availability of land near the core of the city would help increase the city’s economic opportunities and livability.

The World Bank (WB) organised the conference titled “Towards Great Dhaka: Development Options for Dhaka Towards 2035” at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel.

Minister of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Khandker Mosharraf Hossain delivered the keynote speech. Policy makers, senior government officials, Mayors for Dhaka North and South, urban planners, civil society representatives, and private sector leaders also joined the conference.

Participants discussed preliminary findings of the draft report ‘Towards Great Dhaka: A New Urban Development Paradigm Eastward.’ The feedback will be used to inform and finalize the report.

The draft report, presented at the conference, found that Dhaka’s urban development has not kept up with the city’s rapid growth, resulting in a messy and uneven urbanization process. Lack of adequate planning has led to congestion, poor livability, and vulnerability to floods and earthquakes.

Many residents, including the 3.5 million slum dwellers, often lack access to basic services, infrastructure, and amenities. In the last 10 years, average traffic speed has dropped from 21 km/hour to 7 km/hour, only slightly above the average walking speed. Congestion in Dhaka eats up 3.2 million working hours per day.

“Based on current trends, Dhaka will have more than 35 million people by 2035. A productive and livable city of this scale can make enormous contributions to its citizens and the economy,” said Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal.

He, however, said Dhaka must seize the opportunity to properly plan, coordinate, and invest for the future to achieve its full potential.

According to the report, between 1995 and 2005, road surface in Dhaka increased by only 5 percent, while population increased by 50 percent and traffic by 134 percent. Dhaka’s urbanization originated along the northern corridor of the central region, and then expanded westward. Its Eastern half is mostly rural but has the potential to develop rapidly.

Accounting for 40 percent of the city’s surface, it has the advantage of being within 5 kms of prosperous areas like Gulshan, which can help support its growth through capital and human resource investments.

With proper planning and implementation, East Dhaka can become a vibrant pole of activities with higher value added, while helping ease density and congestion in the rest of the city. However, if not managed properly, the rapid and unplanned urbanization of East Dhaka will make congestion and livability worse and expose more people to risks from floods and earthquakes.

“Examples from around the world such as Eastern Shanghai’s Pudong District and others demonstrate that proper planning and execution can encourage economic vibrancy, improve livability, and ease congestion,” said Martin Rama, World Bank Chief Economist for the South Asia Region.

At the conference Sheila Dikshit, former Chief Minister of Delhi, India, and Qizheng Zhao, former Vice Mayor of Shanghai, China shared their experiences on transformations in Delhi and in Eastern Shanghai’s Pudong district, respectively.

Both cities gained greatly from public-private partnerships as well as coordination efforts from multiple ministries and agencies. Professor Anthony Venables of Oxford University presented four simulation scenarios for Dhaka’s development towards 2035.