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What makes Dhaka the second worst city to live in?

  • Published at 02:10 am August 17th, 2018
Waterlooged Dhaka
Waterlogged roads during the monsoon season are just one of the problems that residents of Dhaka have to put up with Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

The EIU surveyed 140 cities around the world for its Global Liveability Index 2018, scoring them on over 30 parameters under five categories: healthcare, infrastructure, culture and environment, stability, and education

Dhaka is the world’s second least liveable city, behind only the war-torn Syrian capital of Damascus, the latest rankings from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) have concluded.

The EIU surveyed 140 cities around the world for its Global Liveability Index 2018, scoring them on over 30 parameters under five categories: healthcare, infrastructure, culture and environment, stability, and education.

Dhaka earned its position by scoring an overall rating of 38 out of 100, where 100 represents ideal living conditions. 

At the top of the list, Vienna in Austria (99.1) dislodged Melbourne in Australia (98.4) for the first time in seven years.

At the bottom, Dhaka slipped two places from last year, when the city was ranked 137th with an overall rating of 38.7. 

The capital’s best performance for 2018 is in stability, where it is rated 50, while the worst score is the 26.8 given to its infrastructure. 

Although Dhaka has consistently performed poorly in the EIU surveys over the past five years - finding a place among the top five cities with the worst living conditions - the ratings have generated mixed reactions among urban development experts in Bangladesh. 

“The EIU did not take into account Dhaka’s population density and culture,” Iqbal Habib, member secretary of the Urbanization and Governance Program of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA),  told the Dhaka Tribune. 

The EIU is the research and analysis division of The Economist Group, the sister company to The Economist newspaper based in the UK.  

“Dhaka is very resilient, having bounced back from large-scale crises many times; take the terror attack in 2016, for example,” Iqbal said. 

“Dhaka has a strong cultural and religious identity. Considering all these factors, it is not appropriate to compare Dhaka with cities like Vienna.”

Ratings ‘injustice’

On the perceived lack of access to healthcare facilities, Iqbal said around 41,000 people live in each square kilometre of Dhaka on average. 

“People living in slums can access healthcare services in government facilities,” he said. “If they [the EIU] compare us with a country whose overall population is roughly equal to Dhaka’s West Dhanmondi area, than it is an injustice.” 

However, Iqbal acknowledged that Dhaka had many shortcomings, and said there is a gap between possibility and opportunity.

“We have fallen behind in population management, constructing environment-friendly infrastructure, and water urbanism,” he said.

Dr Akter Mahmud, professor of urban and regional planning at Jahangirnagar University, said the survey had correctly identified the problems faced by the residents of Dhaka - particularly when it comes to infrastructure and road transportation. 

“The city has expanded because of its growing population, but there is no inclusiveness or proper planning in the infrastructure,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.

“We don’t have an adequate number of roads (and) the capital has little to offer to its residents in terms of recreation. Movement is difficult for women and girls. 

“There is a lack of quality healthcare services in the city (and) only 7% of the housing facilities are public.”

What does it mean to the common people?

Many residents of Dhaka do find the city unliveable. 

“We may not be impacted by war, but the situation is hardly better,” Mizanur Rahman, a government official, told the Dhaka Tribune.

“We are ranked among the top five cities with the worst air pollution. The city becomes a hot chamber during summer. It is so congested - I can reach into my neighbour’s house through my windows easily. It is suffocating. 

“A decade ago, we could go to parks and walk on the roads. Now, because of the dense population and the security issues, all the parks are closed in the evening. Where can I go for a walk? Not everyone lives beside Gulshan or Banani Lakes or the Hatirjheel area,” he added. 

However, there are many others to whom the latest EIU ranking means little.

“I don’t care if the city is liveable or not; I found income opportunities here,” Jamir Ali, a rickshaw puller, said. 

“Even if the city’s living conditions improve, it doesn’t mean it’s going to change my condition. I will still be living in a dirty slum, drinking unsafe water, and in constant fear of dying in a road accident.”