Unplanned and unsustainable

Urbanization and its consequences on the environment

Urbanization is a trend now in developing countries like ours. While planned urbanization is convenient for a country, rapid urbanization without thinking about the environment is not good.

The pace of urbanization is not planned at all, or it is not capable of attaining sustainability yet, in Bangladesh. Instead, it creates many negative impacts on the environment. The Purbachal 300 feet area is such a place where urbanization is taking shape rapidly without thinking about the future. Purbachal’s distance from Kuril Bishwa Road is only 6 kilometres; everyone knows very well that four rivers surround Dhaka, and Balu is one of them. Many land development projects have been launched there, altering the flow of the river. 

There used to be many canals that kept the river alive, but those canals have long gone for the projects’ purpose. Those canals directly connected rivers, and that's why the river can't flow swiftly like before. As we see, developers play a crucial role to regulate the wheel of urbanization. They are constructing their towers, but at what cost? 

As urbanization is growing, deforestation is an everyday activity in Purbachal. About 20 years ago, people bought only oil and turmeric to feed themselves -- everything else grew on their lands. They harvested everything, and also had excess to sell. But after the urbanization process, nothing is left. 

Once, the river was filled with fresh water, and fish were in abundance. Now, the river's water is polluted beyond measure, due to discharges of the development projects. As a result, there are scarcely any fish left. Such unplanned development projects should not be acceptable. Urbanization is good only if it occurs in a designed way, where all environmental security and people's way of survival are included.

In the sense of “Modernization theory,” the application of technology is seen as the main driving force of urbanization in society. But that has created economic dichotomy and uneven development in the world today. This concept of the theory matches perfectly with what is happening in Purbachal. 

Innovation and technology couldn't bring any positive changes to the life pattern of the community; instead, it creates ecological imbalances and has taken away their conventional mode of livelihood. Right now, most of the residents are far away from their previous occupation, and now they have engaged themselves in small businesses from which they barely maintain their families. Their monthly income is not enough to run their family. Poverty has grabbed them, yet we fail to see the close connection between poverty and unchecked urbanization.

Urbanization has also negatively impacted the health condition of the locals. Stagnant water bodies, together with all the waste and scattered garbage in the river result in these waters becoming breeding sites for water-borne diseases. The water is black and polluted, unfit to drink. 

Besides, the rampant air pollution results in many respiratory diseases. An aged resident told me, “once we used to get fresh air, but if we calculate now, Dhaka will be number one in environmental pollution.” 

As theorized by Riley Dunlap, the environment has its capacity for waste disposal; if too much waste is emitted, the environment will not be able to emit waste naturally, resulting in an environmental catastrophe. Dunlap's concepts and thoughts regarding the environment are valid for the Balu river and its surroundings since waste and garbage are dumped into the river in large portions, and why the river continues to become more and more polluted.

Nature has created many renewable and non-renewable resources, which are essential for surviving in the world. But overexploitation for urbanization and development projects create shortages of those resources. The aftermath of unplanned urbanization is not promising for the residents of Purbachal or the rest of Dhaka city.

Anas Ibna Rahman is a student of anthropology.