Slum residents pay more money per square foot than people living in Gulshan but are deprived of access to basic civic amenities like water, electricity, sanitation and gas.
Experts made the observation at "Making an Inclusive City: Securing the Right to Shelter and Livelihood" conference at Brac Centre organised by Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) with the assistance of UK Aid.
The conference on Saturday was attended by urban planners, architects, environmentalists, academics, lawyer, and representatives from NGOs and INGOs to discuss the plight of the urban poor.
Supreme Court lawyer and BLAST chair Dr Kamal Hossain and architect Mobasshar Hossain jointly chaired the sessions and panel discussions where 17 recommendations were made for housing and improving the lives of the urban poor.
“Although it has been 46 years since the Liberation War we have yet to secure housing for the large number of people that qualify as the urban poor who have been living in squalid conditions in slums deprived of their basic constitutional rights to shelter, water and livelihood,” said Dr Kamal.
Co-chair of the sessions architect Mobassher said: “Slum dwellers in Dhaka pay more per square foot for housing than most of the middle-class and upper middle-class residents of areas like Gulshan but at the same time do not have access to basic civil amenities like water, sanitation, gas, electricity, healthcare and education.”
Speaking about land that had been allocated for the poor but ends up being owned by the rich and powerful, architect Iqbal Habib cited Purbachal and Jhilmil as perfect examples of this phenomenon.
“The government acquired land at Tk5 lakh per katha from the poor people to establish the satellite cities of Purbachal, Jhilmil and other but all the plots were later sold to the rich who then sold them for Tk1-2 crores per katha.
“I want to say clearly that we do everything for the rich in the name of the poor who are systematically left out of urban development plans. Around 44% of Dhaka's residents are poor and yet they are denied basic access to their rights.”
However, Rajuk Chief Town Planner Sirajul Islam said there has been 10 acres of land allocated for the poor in Purbachal and 51 acres in Uttara and 10 acres in Jhilmil or the housing the urban poor.
Pointing out Bhashantek rehabilitation project in Mirpur as a failure, Mobassher cited corruption and bad dealings by the real estate company who dealt with the project as the main reason why the housing for the urban poor did not go as planned.
Saying that the focus has to be decentralisation Urban Planner, Prof Salma A Shafi said that the city's expansion projects needed to be more inclusive of the urban poor.
“Not only the city's slum, a huge number of informal housing go up whenever there is space. We are concentrating only on mega projects for the city's rich, but there has no plan for the development of poor communities in urban areas.
“About 40% of the urban people are poor who have no housing facilities for them,” she added.
Supreme Court Lawyer Sara Hossain also spoke at the event with Christine Forrester of Community Legal Services assuring assistance for the rights of the urban poor.