The founders of the city some 400 years ago, naturally, could not foresee even in their delirious fantasy the enormous proportion of development of the urban centre they initiated in terms of inhabitants, vertical and horizontal expansion and economic vibrancy as well as administrative importance. What was initially a garrison town and a provincial administrative hub, has now developed into the capital of an independent country and assumed the proportion of a mega city over a vast area and a population size of more than 16 million.
In the olden days, the city streets were probably wide enough to serve the then purposes. But now those have turned into strangleholds around the neck of the old town and brought life to a grinding halt. Even in emergency moments ambulances and fire fighters cannot make way through the narrow streets. This is one of the reasons why the number of deaths in the Chawkbazar inferno on Wednesday rose so high. With the increase in the number of population and high fragmentation of land, the situation in the old town is so suffocating that the much needed expansion of roads is next to impossible, to say the least.Against this backdrop, Rajuk – the city development authorities – thought of an Urban Land Redevelopment scheme as a way out of the unbearable situation. The ULR, if implemented, could have created the scope of healthy living for the inhabitants with wider roads, parks and open spaces and all other modern amenities. It may be mentioned that it is through such land redevelopment plans that many countries solved similar problems in their cities.
Though ULR has been proved to be a good solution to congested urban environment, two major causes stood in the way of its implementation in Dhaka – lack of people’s trust on Rajuk and fear of losing land if handed over to it. Some vested interest groups also created serious obstacles to the adoption of the plan.
A ULR-type of scheme, as we said earlier, is the only way out of the unbearable environment in the old part of the city. To clear the way for the implementation of similar plan, the authorities should make efforts to gain people’s confidence. And as part of this formidable task, some pilot projects can be taken in hand to demonstrate the benefit and essentiality of such plans.