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Dhaka Tribune

Why Dhaka needs to decentralize

  • Will help reduce losses caused by major calamities
  • Government will be able to deliver services to the masses more easily
  •  'Protecting Dhaka is impossible without a robust decentralization system'
Update : 15 Mar 2024, 12:00 AM

Experts say the government should take effective steps to decentralize Dhaka city as soon as possible in order to ensure sustainable development, make the city livable and enhance public safety.

Decentralizing administrative powers will help reduce losses caused by major calamities, such as fires, and the government will be able to deliver services to the masses more easily, making the capital more livable, they said.

The call for sustained decentralization spans various sectors, including administrative, political, economic, health, cultural, environmental, educational, infrastructural, and market. Analysts believe that a lack of political will and foresight is the reason why decentralization has not yet taken place in the country yet.

Recent findings from the Global Liveability Index 2023 report underscore the urgency of the situation, with Dhaka ranking 166th out of 173 livable cities globally. This position has remained unchanged since 2022.

Several government projects are already underway with a view to building a Smart Bangladesh by 2041, but the projects are yet to have a visible impact on the livability of the capital. Experts argue that the key to unlocking the potential benefits of these development projects lies in the decentralization of Dhaka. 

Urban planner Professor Nazrul Islam stresses that protecting Dhaka is impossible without a robust decentralization system. He urges the government to modernize and develop divisional cities with facilities similar to Dhaka, emphasizing the reduction of urban centrality.

"To protect Dhaka, if every district and divisional city, including Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna, Barisal, Comilla, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Sylhet, Faridpur, and Jessore, can be built on the model of the capital, urban centrality will be reduced to a large extent," he added.

Environmentalist Prof Abu Nasser said that only the head offices of government and private institutions should be kept in Dhaka, and branches should be set up in all divisional and district towns so that fewer people feel the need to move to the capital.

Prof Golam Rahman, an expert, said priority should be given to administrative decentralization, so that people do not need to come to Dhaka for everything.

He also said that architects and planners should be involved and deployed in villages and small towns as well as big cities, and they should all work according to plans.

Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister Tajul Islam said that if planners are involved in the implementation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's “My Village My City” initiative, it will be easier to take the civic benefits of the city to the people in the villages.

He believes a successful implementation of the initiative will reduce the tendency of people to make their way to the capital.

He also said that a detailed regional plan (DAP) has been made for a habitable Dhaka city, and the current government has decided the route for the next 100 years through the Delta Plan.

In this regard, Housing and Public Works Minister RAM Obaidul Muktadir Chowdhury said: "Dhaka will be developed as a habitable city for people. As the first step to decentralize the capital Dhaka, the work of building 4 satellite cities outside Dhaka, including Keraniganj, Savar, Narayanganj, and Gazipur, with all facilities like the capital has schemes in the works under public-private-partnership management."

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