Can Dhaka become a top livable Asian city by 2035?

The government plans to turn all cities in Bangladesh into smart, livable, and comfortable cities by 2041

Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, is currently the seventh least livable city in the world and initiatives are underway to turn it into a top livable city in Asia by 2035.

The government also plans to turn all cities in Bangladesh, including Dhaka and Chittagong, into smart, livable, and comfortable cities by 2041.

Some of the plans taken to turn the government's vision into reality include the Sustainable Development Plan, Vision Plan, Delta Plan, Structure Plan, Revised Strategic Transport Plan, 8th Five Year Plan, and the Detailed Area Plan (DAP 2022-2035)

Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Md Atiqul Islam told Dhaka Tribune: “Dhaka city does not have the necessary playgrounds, parks, and open spaces for its huge population. There are only plots and buildings everywhere.”

He added that authorities concerned were now working sincerely to meet the target of turning Dhaka into a livable city within the stipulated timeframe.

“Implementation of the DAP will make the capital beautiful and livable, and it is now underway,” said Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister Md Tajul Islam.

He further said the plans would only be successful if there is a collective approach to their implementation.

Challenges to making Dhaka a livable city

Experts said there are many challenges to turning Dhaka into a livable city, including political interference, corruption, and overcrowding.

The Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP) recently published a study on “Planning, Sustainable Development, and Livability in Dhaka City.”

The study found that the livability of a city was determined based on five indicators (sustainability, infrastructure, healthcare, culture and environment, and education).

Dhaka city is still among the last ten countries in the world in the livability rankings as the city has been developed violating plans and rules from the very beginng, the report said.

The study identifies a dozen issues that must be addressed to make Dhaka city livable, including implementing an adequate green and blue network, taking immediate initiatives for the implementation of the DAP, creating public spaces and civic amenities as per the Local Area Plan and Strategic Plan, decentralizing private investment, resettlement of slum dwellers, clearing 57 canals that have been encroached on, working in coordination between all departments, conserving water bodies, removing unauthorized constructions, improving the drainage system, and improving healthcare and education facilities.

“The population is constantly increasing in Dhaka for various reasons, but the facilities are not increasing in proportion. As a result, the city is losing livability,” said Dr Akter Mahmud, professor of the department of urban and regional planning at Jahangirnagar University.

“It is necessary to focus on health, education, environment, climate and cost bearing capacity of people, rather only making high-rise buildings,” he added.

“If every ward councilor of Dhaka city can take the initiative to build at least one playground or park during his tenure, it will lead to significant improvement in Dhaka,” the professor said.

Dr Adil Muhammad Khan, executive director of the Institute for Planning and Development (IPD) and professor of the urban and regional planning department of Jahangirnagar University, said the inclusion of children's views in the DAP was very promising.

He added that it is very challenging to develop a legal framework to build an inclusive and livable Dhaka city for children.

“Dhaka city needs 25% roads, but we have only 6%. A primary school, a playground, and park should within walking distance of every 5,000 people, but don't have this,” said Tajul Islam.

“In this challenging situation, we have taken some initiatives to improve livability. For example, waterlogging is gradually being reduced,” he added.

Mayor Atiqul Islam said: “Bloomberg Philanthropies has expressed interest in working on traffic congestion and road safety in Dhaka city and an agreement has been signed with them on the matter.”

“We are working collectively to develop the city as one of the best in Asia soon,” he further said.