Necessity of Regional Governance and Decentralization to Increase Livability in Dhaka

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Necessity of Regional Governance and Decentralization to Increase Livability in Dhaka

Necessity of Regional Governance-Population in Dhaka City

Introduction:

Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is the 11th most populous
city globally. It stands out as the world’s most densely populated city, with
approximately 43,500 people per square kilometer. The city experiences an
influx of an additional 1,700 people daily. Despite occupying only 1% of the
country’s total land area, Dhaka is home to around 32% of the country’s
population. Dhaka’s centralized nature leads to challenges such as traffic
congestion, water pollution, air pollution, and strains on infrastructure,
leading to increased energy costs and health risks for its residents.

One of the primary reasons for Dhaka’s population density is
the concentration of government offices, industries, educational institutions,
and commercial establishments in the city. These essential institutions play a
pivotal role in the country’s governance, education, and commerce. As a result,
the government of Bangladesh initially established several major government
divisions and institutions outside of Dhaka during the rule of former President
Ershad. However, political pressures eventually led to the relocation of these
institutions back to Dhaka, a move that could be described as self-destructive.

To make Dhaka a more liveable city, it is essential to reduce
its population density. Policymakers should recognize that decentralization is
the key to success. Without significant efforts toward decentralization, the
city’s problems cannot be resolved. Regional governance is a viable solution
that warrants serious consideration.

Regional governance involves dividing the country into
several administrative regions, each with its local government. These regional
governments would be responsible for local development, infrastructure, and
administrative functions. Such a system could significantly reduce the
centralization of power and resources in Dhaka, thereby mitigating the
population pressures on the city.

Let’s know why should  Dhaka through Regional Governance and
Decentralization?

Dhaka’s Population Problem :

Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, grapples with a population problem of unparalleled proportions, with a density that surpasses most cities around the world. The staggering figure of over 43,500 individuals packed into every square kilometer paints a vivid picture of the challenges this megacity faces. The relentless influx of approximately 1,700 people daily adds to the already teeming population, as individuals from rural areas and neighboring regions flock to Dhaka in search of better economic prospects and an improved quality of life.

One of the most striking aspects of Dhaka’s demographic landscape is its disproportionate share of the national population. Despite occupying only 1% of Bangladesh’s total landmass, the city accommodates a staggering 32% of the country’s people. This concentration of population presents a myriad of challenges that extend far beyond the mere strain on available space.

Traffic congestion stands out as a visible and persistent problem in Dhaka. The narrow, winding streets of the city, originally designed for a much smaller population, now struggle to cope with the incessant flow of vehicles and pedestrians. The result is a chaotic and often gridlocked transportation system that not only impedes daily life but also hampers economic productivity.

Environmental degradation is another critical issue exacerbated by Dhaka’s overpopulation. The strain on resources and infrastructure has led to increased pollution, both in the air and water. The city’s water bodies bear the brunt of industrial waste and domestic sewage, contributing to the deterioration of water quality. Simultaneously, air pollution from vehicular emissions and industrial activities poses a significant threat to public health and the overall well-being of the population.

The heightened population density also raises concerns about public health. Overcrowded living conditions, inadequate sanitation facilities, and limited access to healthcare services create a breeding ground for various health risks. Contagious diseases can spread rapidly in densely populated areas, making it challenging for authorities to control and manage outbreaks effectively.

Addressing Dhaka’s population problem requires a multifaceted approach. Urban planning and infrastructure development are crucial for accommodating the existing population and future growth. Additionally, sustainable policies that promote balanced regional development, economic opportunities outside the capital, and improved living conditions can help alleviate the pressure on Dhaka. Efforts to mitigate environmental degradation, enhance public transportation, and invest in healthcare infrastructure are essential for creating a more sustainable and livable urban environment in the face of Dhaka’s population challenges.

Necessity of Regional Governance-Traffic in Dhaka city

Traffic Nightmare:

Dhaka’s traffic nightmare is a notorious aspect of daily life, earning the city the dubious honor of having the world’s second-slowest average traffic speed. With vehicles inching along at a mere 21 kilometers per hour, navigating the city’s roadways has become a time-consuming ordeal for residents and commuters alike. This dire situation has tangible consequences for the city’s population, as the average Dhaka resident loses an astonishing 276 hours each year trapped in the clutches of traffic congestion.

The gravity of Dhaka’s traffic predicament becomes even more apparent when comparing it to other cities. The stark reality is that it takes around seven times longer to cover the same distance in Dhaka’s traffic compared to the war-torn city of Flint, Michigan, in the United States. This stark juxtaposition highlights the severity of the issue, emphasizing that the city’s traffic woes extend beyond mere inconvenience to become a significant hindrance to productivity, economic efficiency, and overall well-being.

The causes of Dhaka’s traffic nightmare are multifaceted. The city’s rapid urbanization, coupled with a surge in the number of vehicles on the road, has overwhelmed the existing transportation infrastructure. Inadequate road networks, insufficient public transportation options, and a lack of effective traffic management exacerbate the problem. Additionally, the city’s narrow and congested streets, originally designed for a smaller population, are ill-equipped to handle the burgeoning volume of vehicles.

The repercussions of the traffic nightmare extend beyond the sheer frustration of commuters. Environmental concerns loom large as well, with long hours of idling vehicles contributing to air pollution. The economic toll is significant, as valuable working hours are lost in transit, affecting productivity and overall economic output. Furthermore, the stress and health implications for individuals spending a substantial portion of their day stuck in traffic cannot be understated.

Addressing Dhaka’s traffic nightmare requires a comprehensive and strategic approach. Investments in public transportation, the expansion and improvement of road infrastructure, and the implementation of smart traffic management systems are crucial components of any solution. Encouraging alternative modes of transportation, such as cycling and walking, can help alleviate the strain on the road network. Additionally, urban planning initiatives that promote sustainable development and reduce dependency on private vehicles can contribute to a more efficient and livable urban environment. Tackling Dhaka’s traffic nightmare is not just about improving mobility; it is a fundamental step towards fostering a healthier, more sustainable, and economically vibrant city for its residents.

Infrastructure Failures:

Dhaka’s rapid urbanization has been a double-edged sword, showcasing visible signs of growth such as towering buildings, expansive shopping malls, flyovers, and highways. However, this façade of progress belies a significant and persistent problem: the city’s failure to keep pace with infrastructure development, leading to a host of issues that impact the daily lives of its residents.

One of the most glaring challenges is the inadequacy of the road infrastructure. The surge in the number of vehicles navigating Dhaka’s roads has far outstripped the capacity of existing thoroughfares. This imbalance results in chaos and frequent traffic jams, as the city’s roadways bear the burden of a diverse array of vehicles, from cars and buses to rickshaws and motorcycles. The lack of well-designed road systems and efficient traffic management exacerbates the congestion, leading to a daily struggle for commuters.

The absence of proper interchanges further compounds the problem. Well-designed interchanges are crucial for the smooth flow of traffic, reducing bottlenecks and improving overall transportation efficiency. Dhaka’s deficient interchanges contribute to traffic snarls, wasted fuel, and increased travel times, further underscoring the need for comprehensive infrastructure planning.

In the realm of public transportation, Dhaka falls short in providing efficient and accessible options for its residents. The absence of a well-implemented Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system is particularly conspicuous. A robust BRT system can alleviate traffic congestion, reduce travel times, and offer a sustainable alternative to private vehicles. Its absence in Dhaka leaves commuters with limited options, forcing a significant portion of the population to rely on less organized and more congested modes of transportation.

The consequences of these infrastructure failures extend beyond mere inconveniences. Productivity suffers as valuable time is lost in transit, and the environment bears the brunt of increased vehicular emissions due to traffic congestion. Moreover, the lack of essential public services, such as efficient public transportation, hinders the city’s overall development and detracts from its potential as a hub of economic and cultural activity.

Addressing Dhaka’s infrastructure failures requires a concerted effort in urban planning and development. Investments in well-designed road networks, strategic interchanges, and a reliable public transportation system are imperative. Collaborative efforts between government agencies, urban planners, and the private sector can pave the way for sustainable development that not only accommodates the city’s current needs but also anticipates and plans for future growth. Ultimately, rectifying these infrastructure shortcomings is not just about creating a more efficient urban environment but is central to unlocking Dhaka’s full potential as a vibrant and thriving metropolis.

Environmental and Health Concerns:

The city’s woes extend beyond traffic congestion. Noise pollution, vehicular emissions, and reckless driving have contributed to deteriorating air quality and health concerns. The absence of proper pedestrian facilities, public transportation, public toilets, and waste disposal services adds to the city’s woes. Dhaka’s residents face health risks due to air pollution

Dhaka’s Rising Temperature:

El Niño’s influence has brought about a noticeable increase
in temperature in Dhaka. This phenomenon is often referred to as the Heat
Island Effect. To adapt, Dhaka’s city dwellers have resorted to cutting down
trees and filling up water bodies at an alarming rate. Large areas of natural
soil and vegetation are being covered with asphalt and concrete. Consequently,
the direct rays of the sun now reach and accumulate on these hard surfaces.
This slow release of heat during the night keeps the city uncomfortably warm.

Urban Heat Stress:

Due to this phenomenon, Dhaka is experiencing what is known
as urban heat stress. With concrete and asphalt taking over much of the city,
the surface temperatures have risen. During the daytime, these surfaces become
scorching hot, accumulating heat from the sun’s rays. This situation is further
exacerbated by the Heat Stressed Environment. As a result, the city is
struggling to stay cool.

Dhaka’s Contrasting Temperatures:

Surprisingly, Dhaka’s immediate surroundings, whether rural
or within the city, are cooler by 3-4 degrees. This is due to the significant
presence of trees and vegetation. These natural elements play a crucial role in
moderating temperature, a role that has been overlooked in Dhaka’s rapid
development.

Impact on Everyday Life:

The effect of this rising temperature isn’t limited to
discomfort. Approximately 70% of Dhaka’s population resides in tin-shed or
underprivileged homes, lacking proper ventilation. During the daytime, the city
consumes an enormous amount of electricity to beat the heat. As a result, hot
air from various electronic appliances is adding to the city’s temperature.
However, Dhaka was once a tropical city with a wealth of greenery, and these
natural elements helped to keep temperatures

The Role of Construction Materials:

The materials used in building construction, such as cement,
sand, steel, glass, and aluminum, significantly contribute to carbon emissions
during manufacturing. Once the buildings are constructed, they require
operational carbon for running electrical appliances and lighting. The majority
of buildings in Dhaka do not provide a gap between them for light and airflow.
Consequently, artificial lighting and fans run 24/7, while natural sunlight and
breezes remain absent. This not only increases energy consumption but also
contributes to a heat-island effect in the city.

Let’s discuss how can we Enhance Liveability in Dhaka through Regional Governance
and Decentralization?

Centralization of Government and Institutions:

The centralization of government offices, industries,
educational institutions, and commercial establishments in Dhaka has been a
contributing factor to the city’s overpopulation and subsequent challenges.
This centralization, pursued by successive governments, has created an influx of
people seeking employment, education, and improved standards of living.
Consequently, Dhaka has become the nucleus of economic activity, leading to
imbalanced growth, strain on resources, and social unrest.

The Imperative for Regional Governance:

To mitigate the burdens on Dhaka and foster sustainable
development, the establishment of regional governance and the decentralization
of key government institutions and offices to other regions of Bangladesh is
imperative. Regional governance can distribute economic activities,
administrative functions, and infrastructural development more evenly across
the country. This decentralization aims not only to alleviate the mounting
pressure on Dhaka but also to stimulate the growth of other regions, discourage
rural-urban migration, and enhance living standards outside the capital.

Here are some key benefits of implementing regional
governance:

1. Population Redistribution: 

By distributing administrative
functions across various regions, people will be incentivized to move to areas
outside Dhaka, thus reducing its population burden.

2. Resource Allocation:

Regional governments can allocate
resources more efficiently based on local needs, resulting in better
infrastructure and services across the country.

3. Economic Growth: 

Decentralization can lead to economic
growth in other regions of the country, reducing the pressure on Dhaka as the
primary economic hub.

4. Improved Quality of Life:

Reduced population density in
Dhaka will lead to less traffic congestion, better air quality, and improved
living conditions for its residents.

5. Disaster Resilience:

Regional governments can better
prepare for and respond to natural disasters, improving the overall resilience
of the nation.

The implementation of regional governance would require
careful planning, coordination, and political will. It is essential to involve
local communities and experts in the decision-making process to ensure that
each region’s unique needs are addressed.

Challenges and Implementation:

Implementing regional governance necessitates meticulous
planning and strategic execution. Factors such as infrastructure development,
resource allocation, and empowerment of regional governments are crucial
considerations. Empowering regional administrations with resources,
decision-making authority, and fiscal autonomy is vital for their effective
functioning and capacity to cater to the unique needs of their respective
regions.

The Role of the Detailed Area Plan (DAP) in Dhaka’s
Development:

The Detailed Area Plan (DAP) in Dhaka stands as a crucial component in the city’s ongoing efforts towards comprehensive and sustainable development. Initiated in 1990 with the Structural Plan and reaching fruition in 2010 with the DAP, this urban planning endeavor has played a pivotal role in shaping the city’s landscape and addressing various developmental challenges.

1. Urban Planning and Development:

The DAP serves as a blueprint for the spatial organization and development of Dhaka. It provides a detailed framework for land use, zoning regulations, and infrastructure development. By delineating specific areas for residential, commercial, and industrial purposes, the plan aims to optimize land utilization and promote a more organized and efficient urban environment.

2. Sustainable Development:

The acknowledgment of the immense potential of agricultural land within the country’s borders underscores the commitment to sustainable development. Balancing industrialization with the preservation and utilization of agricultural resources is crucial for long-term environmental and economic sustainability. The DAP, through its revisions and improvements, can contribute to the integration of sustainable practices into the urban fabric, ensuring a harmonious coexistence between urbanization and agricultural activities.

3. Disaster Resilience and Climate Change Adaptation:

Dhaka, like many areas in Bangladesh, faces challenges related to natural disasters, water scarcity, and the impacts of global climate change. The DAP, with its ongoing revisions, provides an opportunity to incorporate measures that enhance the city’s resilience to these challenges. This includes the identification of vulnerable areas, the implementation of climate-resilient infrastructure, and the integration of disaster risk reduction strategies into urban planning

4. Infrastructure Planning:

A well-thought-out DAP contributes to the development of essential infrastructure, including transportation networks, water supply, and waste management systems. As Dhaka continues to grow, proper infrastructure planning becomes paramount to address the needs of a burgeoning population and ensure the efficient functioning of the city.

5. Long-term Vision and Flexibility:

Despite the initial timeline set until 2015, the fact that the DAP is still undergoing revisions and improvements demonstrates the adaptability of the plan to changing circumstances and emerging challenges. This flexibility is crucial for urban planning, allowing for adjustments that consider evolving socioeconomic, environmental, and geopolitical factors.

6. Community Engagement:

The success of any urban planning initiative lies in its acceptance and integration with the community. The DAP provides an opportunity for community engagement, ensuring that the perspectives and needs of the residents are considered. This participatory approach fosters a sense of ownership and commitment to the city’s development among its inhabitants.

In conclusion, the Detailed Area Plan (DAP) in Dhaka is a dynamic tool that plays a pivotal role in the city’s development journey. Its continuous revisions and improvements reflect an ongoing commitment to addressing the evolving challenges faced by Dhaka. By promoting sustainable development, addressing environmental concerns, and enhancing resilience to natural disasters, the DAP serves as a guide for a more livable, resilient, and prosperous urban future for the people of Dhaka.

Thinking Beyond Limits: “Sky Is the Limit”
for Dhaka’s Urban Development:

The phrase “Sky Is the Limit” evokes a sense of boundless possibilities for Dhaka’s urban development. However, it’s crucial to move beyond the simplicity of this expression and delve into the intricate and multifaceted aspects of city planning. While the skyline may reach great heights, a holistic approach to urban development requires thoughtful consideration of various factors that extend far beyond the vertical growth of buildings.

1. Sustainable Land Use:

Urban development in Dhaka should prioritize sustainable land use practices. Instead of focusing solely on vertical expansion, thoughtful planning should encompass efficient land utilization, balancing the need for development with environmental conservation. This involves zoning regulations that allocate spaces for residential, commercial, and green areas, ensuring a harmonious coexistence between urban infrastructure and natural elements.

2. Comprehensive Transportation Planning:

The development of an efficient and integrated transportation system is paramount. As the city expands, considerations for accessible public transportation, well-designed road networks, and pedestrian-friendly pathways become essential. Integrating sustainable modes of transport, such as cycling lanes and reliable public transit, can alleviate congestion, reduce environmental impact, and enhance the overall quality of urban life.

3. Water Management and Conservation:

Given Dhaka’s vulnerability to water-related challenges, a robust water management strategy is indispensable. This includes efficient stormwater drainage systems, flood-resilient infrastructure, and measures to prevent waterlogging. Moreover, initiatives for water conservation and responsible consumption should be integrated into the urban planning framework to ensure a sustainable water supply for the growing population.

4. Reliable Electricity Supply:

As urban development progresses, ensuring a reliable and sustainable electricity supply is imperative. Investing in smart grids, renewable energy sources, and energy-efficient infrastructure can contribute to a resilient power supply, reducing dependency on non-renewable resources and minimizing the environmental impact of energy consumption.

5. Waste Management Systems:

The increasing urban population generates a substantial amount of waste. Implementing effective waste management systems, including recycling initiatives and waste-to-energy projects, is crucial for maintaining cleanliness, reducing environmental pollution, and fostering a healthy living environment.

6. Green Spaces and Urban Ecosystems:

While constructing towering structures is part of urban development, preserving and creating green spaces is equally important. Integrating parks, gardens, and green roofs into the urban landscape contributes to biodiversity, improves air quality, and enhances the overall well-being of the residents.

7. Community Engagement and Inclusivity:

Sustainable urban development goes beyond infrastructure and involves fostering a sense of community. Inclusivity and community engagement should be prioritized to ensure that the diverse needs and perspectives of the population are considered in the planning process. This approach promotes a sense of belonging and shared responsibility for the city’s development.

In essence, while the “Sky Is the Limit” metaphor is appealing, Dhaka’s urban development must be grounded in a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the myriad factors that shape a city. By addressing issues such as sustainable land use, transportation, water management, electricity supply, waste disposal, and community engagement, Dhaka can aspire to a future where its skyline reflects not only vertical growth but also a commitment to holistic and sustainable urban living.

Connecting People Across the Globe:

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and
Instagram have connected people from all corners of the world. We can now
easily stay in touch with friends and family, no matter where they are, and
even forge new friendships with individuals who share our interests. This
global connectivity has opened up opportunities for cultural exchange and the
sharing of diverse perspectives.

The Rise of the Influencer Culture

Social media has given birth to the influencer culture,
where individuals who have amassed large followings can influence consumer
choices and public opinion. This has become a powerful marketing tool, with
influencers collaborating with brands and promoting products. However, it also
raises questions about authenticity and transparency in online content.

Privacy Concerns in the Digital Age:

The digital footprint we leave on social media platforms has
raised concerns about online privacy. Personal information and data are
collected, often without our explicit consent, and used for targeted
advertising. This has sparked debates about data protection and the need for
stricter regulations to safeguard user privacy.

Mental Health Challenges:

The advent of social media has undeniably transformed the way people connect and share information, but it also comes with significant mental health challenges. The constant exposure to carefully curated and idealized depictions of others’ lives can have profound effects on individuals, leading to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Striking a balance between the digital and real worlds is crucial, and promoting healthy online behaviors can mitigate the negative impact on mental well-being.

1. Social Comparison and Inadequacy:

Social media often fosters a culture of comparison, where individuals gauge their own lives against the seemingly perfect lives of others. The relentless stream of carefully selected photos and updates can create unrealistic standards, fostering feelings of inadequacy and diminishing self-esteem.

2. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO):

The constant exposure to social events, travel experiences, and lifestyle choices on social media can contribute to the fear of missing out. Individuals may feel pressured to participate in activities or conform to certain lifestyles to keep up with their peers, leading to stress and anxiety

3. Cyberbullying and Online Harassment:

The anonymity provided by social media platforms can contribute to cyberbullying and online harassment, causing significant distress for those targeted. Such negative online experiences can have long-lasting effects on mental health, impacting self-esteem and overall emotional well-being.

4. Addiction and Digital Overload:

The addictive nature of social media platforms, designed to keep users engaged, can lead to digital overload. Excessive screen time and constant connectivity may contribute to feelings of burnout, sleep disturbances, and heightened stress levels.

5. Impacts on Body Image:

Social media often perpetuates unrealistic beauty standards, with influencers and celebrities showcasing idealized images. This can lead to body dissatisfaction and contribute to the development of eating disorders, particularly among young people who are more susceptible to societal pressures.

Strategies for Promoting Mental Well-being:

1. Mindful Social Media Use:

Encouraging individuals to approach social media mindfully involves being aware of their emotional responses and setting boundaries for screen time. Creating designated periods for social media use and avoiding excessive scrolling can help maintain a healthier relationship with these platforms.

2. Authenticity and Realism

Promoting authenticity on social media can counteract the culture of idealization. Encouraging individuals to share both positive and challenging aspects of their lives fosters a more realistic and relatable online environment.

3. Digital Detox:

Encouraging periodic digital detoxes can be beneficial for mental health. Taking breaks from social media allows individuals to reconnect with the real world, reduce stress, and focus on in-person interactions.

4. Cyberbullying Prevention:

Educating users about online etiquette, reporting mechanisms, and the impact of cyberbullying is crucial. Creating a supportive online community that actively discourages negative behavior can contribute to a safer and more positive digital environment.

5. Mental Health Awareness Campaigns:

Raising awareness about the potential impact of social media on mental health is essential. Campaigns that emphasize the importance of seeking help, reducing stigma around mental health issues, and promoting self-care can contribute to a more supportive online culture.

By addressing these challenges and promoting healthier online behaviors, individuals, communities, and platform developers can work together to create a digital landscape that enhances rather than detracts from mental well-being. Balancing the benefits of social media connectivity with the need for mental health preservation is key to fostering a positive online experience for everyone.

Conclusion: 

Dhaka’s overwhelming
population presents a formidable challenge that demands immediate attention and
innovative solutions. The city’s rapid urbanization, coupled with its
unmanageable growth, has led to various issues such as traffic congestion,
housing shortages, inadequate healthcare services, and increased environmental
stress. Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive and multifaceted
approach, encompassing urban planning, governance, resource distribution, and
regional development.

The regional decentralization of administrative functions,
alongside a strategic distribution of industries and educational institutions,
offers a promising path to alleviate the strain on Dhaka. By enhancing the
capacity of divisional cities to serve as administrative hubs, each equipped
with the necessary infrastructure and services, we can facilitate better access
to essential government services without the need for people to converge in the
capital. This not only eases the population burden on Dhaka but also promotes a
more equitable distribution of resources and opportunities, leading to more
balanced urban growth across the country. Moreover, investing in healthcare and
other essential services within the regions can ensure that residents have
access to quality services closer to their homes, reducing the city’s
dependency on these services. In doing so, Dhaka can transition towards
becoming a more habitable and sustainable metropolis while allowing other
regions to flourish and contribute to the nation’s overall development.

 

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