A World Bank report - “Towards Great Dhaka: A New Urban Development Paradigm Eastward” - lays out a strategic vision for unlocking the potential of East Dhaka at an estimated development cost of $15 billion.
East Dhaka may experience the same mess as the west of the capital if it is not developed in a planned manner, a leading economist and policymaker said on Thursday.
Hossain Zillur Rahman, the executive chairman of the Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC), issued his stark warning at the unveiling of a World Bank report on the proposed eastern regeneration of the capital.
“Dhaka has grown very well demographically, but not with all the civic amenities required,” he said.
“The east of Dhaka is already in danger and it needs to be given more attention for planned development, otherwise it will embrace the same fate the west did.”
Hossain Zillur - who founded his Dhaka-based think tank in 1996 - suggested the creation of a multi-agency platform to facilitate the smooth growth and urbanization of the capital.
“A lack of coordination between the concerned government agencies and stakeholders from the private sector are causing a mess to the development projects in the city,” he said.
The economist welcomed the World Bank report - “Towards Great Dhaka: A New Urban Development Paradigm Eastward” - which lays out a strategic vision for unlocking the potential of East Dhaka at an estimated development cost of $15 billion.
“It was prepared only to ensure development does not stop, since our aim is to engage all stakeholders and development partners to work more closely considering the future,” he said.
When asked whether investment will be an issue to implement the plan, he said: “Rather it is the political commitment that will matter a lot to make it happen.”
The World Bank’s chief economist for South Asia, Martin Rama, said at Thursday’s unveiling that the prosperity of Dhaka reflects the growth of Bangladesh, even though the city appears at the bottom of the global living standard rankings.
“Dhaka’s economic growth shows it is on the right track of development,” he said.
“It is good to ensure development in the city, but has to be in a planned way, eventually benefitting all”.
While other economists have warned of the growing pressure on infrastructure caused by Dhaka’s expansion, Martin Rama said the proper urbanisation of the eastern part of the city can bring benefits.
He described internal migration as a “good sign”, because “more people will be engaged in economic activities”.
However, he also expressed his concern over the sufferings of the estimated 3.5 million people who live in Dhaka’s many slums, and said time was of the essence.
“Bangladesh may see a downward trend in foreign investment after five or six years as it is heading towards the feat of a middle income country, so it is high time it gave more importance on expanding its development programs,” he said.
Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain also spoke at the report launch.
“The government is working keeping in mind its Vision 2021 and development in Dhaka is also being done in line with the aim,” he said.
“However, flooding, traffic congestion and lack of urban amenities are among the issues that are hampering the growth as expected.”
Thursday’s event at a Dhaka hotel was also addressed by, among others, WB Country Director Qimiao Fan, Oxford University Professor Anthony J Venables, and urban planner Iqbal Habib.