Rikta Rahman is a private job holder who has been living in the capital’s Mirpur area with her family members for over a decade. Although Mirpur is far away from her office, she preferred this place to reside in because the living cost is affordable in this area. But, nowadays Rikta finds her office journey to be a very tedious experience as she has to face many extreme unpleasantries on the roads like long traffic tailbacks, water-logging and muddy streets during the rainy season and dusts during dry period. Though some of these problems were present in her earlier days in the area, but all these troubles are increasing and creating horrible experiences for her as the construction works of Metro Rail Project and other unplanned development works are going on there. The roads from Sony cinema hall to the Prime Minister’s residence has been dug so badly that it takes two to three times more time than the usual. Thus she often fails to reach her office in time. Rikta Rahman is not alone, almost every one of Dhaka city, has been facing similar types of problems because of developmental mess. City dwellers continue to face problems like air, water and noise pollutions, water-logging, traffic congestion, and lack of better environment, which are essential for a healthy life, due to different development works. Continuous water-logging and traffic congestion have been literally hampering people’s life by damaging valuable working hours, creating health risks and other social and mental disorders. Office-going people and students are the worst sufferers as they get stuck in traffic jam for hours every now and then. Rickshaw pullers and CNG-run auto rickshaw drivers demand extra fare from them for rough roads. And this has been happening over the years. Unplanned development activities of successive governments have been increasing public sufferings in manifolds owing to the fact that the concerned authorities always turn a blind eye to these woes.
No nation progresses without developing necessary infrastructures. It does not directly produce goods and services but facilitates production in primary, secondary and tertiary economic activities. Thus, it is an admitted fact that the level of economic development in any country directly depends on the development of infrastructure. For achieving its desired goal and establishing it as a better place of investment and business, Bangladesh is also investing in infrastructural development. Developmental works must be done for the greater wellbeing of the nation, but not in an unplanned way. Before taking any project, development planners and policy makers need to think about the sufferings of the mass people. Now the government is developing infrastructure throughout the country and it seems that the public sufferings are rising all over Bangladesh. For instance, the four-lane project of Dhaka-Tangail and Dhaka-Mymensingh highways are causing huge traffic jam every day. The construction works of a flyover in Feni is creating horrible traffic jam that it needs 4-5 hours to cross only 3-4 kilometer area. Long-term mega projects in and outside the capital, in absence of short-term solutions, have added to people’s sufferings when these projects are aimed to bring comfort in their lives. Both government officials and road transport experts fear that the sufferings will not only continue but also increase if short-term and low-cost alternatives cannot be devised immediately.
When there is a criticism over the development works which are now under-construction, the overall plan and outcome of some infrastructures are not above the question. The construction of Moghbazar-Mouchak flyover, a much talked city development project of the incumbent government, can be an example of this kind. It was built with a view to reducing traffic congestion which caused immense sufferings to local people during it construction work. Even, two construction workers succumbed to death, yet the project was not completed in time. It required additional budget as well. Reportedly, after its inauguration, traffic congestion in the area has not improved significantly. Even experts think that the flyover was built following a wrong design which has created a permanent obstacle to public transports in the area. Hence, one thing is clearly apparent that the planners whom the government deploys for doing such tasks often lack their professional expertise.
It is evident from the opinions of experts, researchers and right activists that an unholy nexus of incapable politicians, unscrupulous contractors and corrupt bureaucrats has been dominant in the development sector. They all are busy in securing their personal interests, creating obstacles ahead of planned development. In Dhaka, right under the nose of the administration the way several real-estate companies got approval of some housing projects filling the marshland surrounding the city is a striking example of such unholy nexus. Experts also have observed a general inertia among the city planners in developing long-term plans.
Construction companies should be well-versed in project management and the demands of running a project in terms of resources and manpower. Working with multiple construction professionals who often have their own agendas requires patient and disciplined managers who are able to get different groups working together toward a combined goal. Project success is often time-dependent and meeting deadlines rank among the most important aspects of a developer’s responsibilities. But in our country, although many of the contractors hardly have any experience of conducting planned development works, they can get tender by using their political influence. Thus, they often miss deadlines and don’t keep alternative ways to reduce public sufferings. Sometimes they intentionally take more time in implementing projects so that their like-minded politicians and bureaucrats add extra money with the prefixed budget of these projects to secure mutual benefits.
As a result of such unplanned development works, Dhaka has already been listed as one of the least livable cities of the world. Experts fear that if the situation remains unchanged and such faulty practice continues, the citizens shall be vulnerable to various hazards. According to population division of the United Nations, 35 million people or about 25 percent of our entire population have now moved into big cities of the country. The number is expected to soar to a staggering 80 million by 2030. With about half a million people migrating to big cities every year, the situation has worsened since the research was completed four years ago. In fact, every sector of civic amenities is as bleak as the other. Urban planners must address this tendency of gradual migration and convince the policy makers so that they invest in the planned urbanisation to facilitate new city-dwellers.
Urbanisation and industrialisation have provided livelihood to the millions of people of the country, but at the same time, they have created problems such as waste disposal, environmental degradation, and accumulation of problems at homes and work places, disease-causing agents and pollutants and contamination of air, soil and surface water. The more we achieved rapid growth of industrial production, the more we experienced problems related to industrial pollution. However, do we want rapid industrialisation, urbanisation and infrastructural development at the cost of our environment? Can we ignore the cause like public suffering for the sake of development work? Bangladesh is not the first country where urbanisation, industrialisation and infrastructural development are taking place. Most of the countries who have previously strived for achieving economic development have focused on reducing public sufferings and followed a planned way to make their development a sustainable one.
When the planners think about a project, it seems that they focus on the cost of the project following the instructions of the government. They try to do everything to reduce government’s expenditure. Unfortunately they don’t consider the other part: sufferings of the public (both mental and economical). Any individual loss ultimately creates pressure on the national economy. The government must address this issue. It must change its development philosophy to prioritise people’s interest. It is still not too late to introduce a proper development management policy to relieve our mass people from the developmental mess.