Experts complain at a seminar on “China Smart City Experience and Lessons for Bangladesh”
Experts have blamed a lack of coordination among 54 service providing agencies, including the two city corporations, for sub-standard civic services and disorder in the capital city Dhaka.
Besides, mismanagement as well as the government's focus on making projects visible instead of ensuring their quality is responsible for the chaotic situation in the city, they said at a seminar in the capital on Wednesday.
The Policy Research Institute (PRI), a Dhaka-based think-tank, organised the event on "China Smart City Experience and Lessons for Bangladesh".
Ling Lingang, chief executive officer of Kingdom Engine International, a Chinese construction giant, related the experience of smart cities built in his country.
He mentioned two ways that were instrumental in building a smart city: either dwellers will have to become smart and then change the city or the government has to build a smart city and compel citizens to do everything in smart manner.
He said that China has brought all service providing agencies under one umbrella, with the result that these agencies have successfully worked in coordination with one another. They control the traffic system by using smart light systems and automated fines. And they have transformed the cities into tourism destinations.
Urban planner Iqbal Habib said 54 agencies, among which are the two city corporations, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha, Public Works Department, Water Supply and Sewerage Authority, Dhaka Electric Supply Company and Dhaka Power Development Board, are responsible for providing civic services in the city.
Despite allocations and initiatives, he said there is no ordered structure in the city owing to a lack of coordination among the agencies.
"Titas dug up a road to fix its pipelines only six months into its repair after a digging up had been done by Wasa," he said. "The same road is dug up again for working on sewerage lines. The city remains polluted by dust and waste created from the digging of roads round the year."
Referring to his own survey, Habib said around 61 percent of Dhaka roads go through digging throughout the year. "Some roads are dug every year. There is no reason for it other than wasting money allocated for the development of the city."
Another urban expert, Professor Salim Rashid, said smart management is the most important aspect of building a smart city. "We have been lagging far behind in smart management and good governance. Every agency works separately, causing sufferings to city dwellers."
He noted that a lack of services is also alarmingly visible in the city. This is in contrast to the allocations made every year towards expanding services.
Professor Salim emphasised recruiting people for guarding close circuit cameras and their management.
PRI Chairman Zaidi Sattar identified a centralization of administration to be the main problem. "The population is increasing, with everything being Dhaka-centric. Civic amenities in the city always remain insufficient due to population pressures."
Laying emphasis on a shifting of industries, educational institutions and medical facilities outside the city, he said, "Coordination among the service providing agencies is very important."
Speaking on behalf of businessmen, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI) Director Abdul Haque said, "We are not getting sustainable results due to the government's focus on visible development rather than on quality work. We have to do the same work again and again."
Ifty Islam, managing director of Asian Tiger Capital, presented the keynote paper at the seminar.
He said, "Smart sanitation, smart education, smart transport, smart power, smart mobility, smart health and smart connectivity are a must for building Dhaka as a smart city."
He said the government can take several cities as models for building Dhaka as a smart city.
"Sao Paulo, Panama City and Beijing can be emulated in water and waste management; Paris, Buenos Aires and Florence in tourism and culture; Beijing, Cairo and Barcelona in traffic and mobility management; Caracas and German cities in electricity supply and Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro in safety."
Former finance minister AMA Muhith, speaking as the chief guest, claimed that the standard of services has improved in the last ten years, despite some disruptions caused by a lack coordination among the service providing agencies. "There has been considerable progress in power supply," he said.
He said Bangladesh has set an example in ensuring sanitation. "Our sanitation is far better than in India. Education and health services have increased considerably. Service quality has not fully been visible as a lot of townships have been built through over-development in the country."