Despite having five rivers surrounding it, capital Dhaka has virtually remained ungoverned when it comes to basic urban and environmental issues, said experts.
Dhaka city is surrounded by five rivers -- Balu and Sitalakhya on the eastern side, Turag and Buriganga on the western side, and Dhaleshwari on the south.
According to the experts, small urban rivers may help a city in many ways - providing support for waterways, flushing out rainwaters and offering recreational facilities and economic benefits-but Dhaka has long been only polluting these rivers and the entire environment.
Talking to UNB, urban expert Prof Nazrul Islam, environment expert Dr Atiq Rahman and Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (Bapa) general secretary, MA Matin said the city must be devolved with proper plan alongside taking effective steps to check all types of pollution to turn it into a clean and healthy one again.
They said though late Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) Mayor Annisul Huq could not complete his tasks, he showed the effective way to make Dhaka a livable city with his various initiatives to remove illegally installed billboards, illegal vehicle parking, modernise footpaths, restore discipline in transport management, drainage and waste management system, check pollution, protect the environment, increase greeneries and set up modern public toilets.
Prof Nazrul Islam said Dhaka city has long been branded as the least liveable city by different local and international bodies due to unabated pollution and unplanned expansion.
He said though Rajuk has worked out many plans and steps to build the city in a planned way, most of those were not implemented. "The city is facing various problems for lack of good governance, proper monitoring and maintenance by the authorities concerned. The situation is getting worse amid its population boom."
He said right plans, their proper implementation and proper maintenance, enforcement of law and good governance are necessary to turn Dhaka into a habitable city.
Dr Atiq Rahman said though Dhaka has repeatedly been ranked as one of the least liveable cities in the world, no substantial effort is visible to improve the situation.
He said bad planning, lack of coordination among different government ministries, departments and agencies, non-enforcement of laws, lack of sincerity of the government are the main reasons behind turning Dhaka into an unhealthy and chaotic city.
Dr Atiq, also the executive director of Bangladesh Centre for Advance Studies (BCAS), said nearly a dozen of flyovers have been constructed in an unplanned way which only helped shift the traffic jams from one point to another. "There's no discipline in the transport sector while people have no enough walkways and footpaths."
Besides, he said, most canals, water bodies, rivers and lowlands were grabbed destroying the natural water drainage system. "Most of the rivers are badly polluted by different industrial and household wastes. The government couldn't ensure pure and safe water for city dwellers. Crores of litters of water are being boiled for purification by burning huge gas every day. Many buildings have been constructed without making proper designs defying the building code. These things are making the city unworthy of living."
Besides, he said, Dhaka's air is highly polluted mainly due to brick kilns, unfit vehicles and unusual growth of dust from construction works, rundown roads which is taking heavy toll on the public health.
The environment expert lamented that the Environment Ministry has miserably failed to play any effective role in dealing with the alarming incidents of pollution and enforcing the existing laws.
He said proper planning, their implementations, strict enforcement of law, decentralisations, effective coordination among the government bodies, active role of the Environment Ministry and the government's strong commitments are imperative to make Dhaka a livable city.
Abdul Matin said, "All kinds of pollution are continuously growing in the city. Air pollution used to take nearly 8,000 lives a year just three years back, now it causes the death to 84,000 people every year."
Water and soil quality of the city is also degrading due to unplanned urbanisation and Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority's (Wasa's) poor performance and negligence. "Many areas of the capital are still out of drinkable water supply, sanitation, and proper waste management."
The two Dhaka city corporations and different government bodies also could not play any effective role in checking noise and sound pollution, keeping the city properly clean, controlling traffic jams and visual pollution, maintaining parks, increasing greeneries, saving the rivers and ensuring better transport service.
Director General of the Directorate General Health service (DGHS) Prof Abul Kalam Azad said Dhaka city is facing serious air pollution which is contributing to rising various diseases like lung problems, cancer, respiratory problems. "Even, people are not getting healthy food and safe water."
Contacted, Environment and Forests Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud said they are working out effective steps to reduce pollution. "We'll soon procure machines to check pollution by vehicles. We'll intensify our drives and monitoring to significantly cut pollution by brick kilns and various industries and factories."
The minister said they will hold a meeting with law enforcers to diminish sound pollution by strictly enforcing law.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said law enforcers cannot ease traffic jam notably as the number of vehicles is much higher than the road capacity. "New vehicles are hitting the streets every day, making the traffic police's job harder to manage tailbacks."
About sound pollution by vehicles, he said they give traffic police a strong direction to control such pollution.