Experts say the revised Detailed Area Plan of Dhaka, if implemented, will lead to runaway urban growth
- If approved, the plan will allow commercial use of space in residential units and of land, and vice-versa
- Urban planners think it will further worsen the living conditions in the capital
- Rajuk says that the relaxation of rules on land development will lead to employment generation
- Dhaka has a much larger population than the employment and economic opportunities it offers, it argues
The revised Detailed Area Plan (DAP) of Dhaka permits mixed land use everywhere from farmland to industrial zones. This means that if the plan is approved, the commercial use of space in residential units and of land, and vice-versa, will be allowed – on certain conditions.
In the new DAP envisioned for the period up to 2035, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha (Rajuk) argues that the relaxation of rules on land development will serve the best interests of employment generation, but urban planners think it will further worsen the living conditions in the capital city.
The major factors behind the concern are the capital development authority's incapacity to govern and the widespread practice of vested quarters bending the law.
Dhaka has a much larger population than the employment and economic opportunities it offers, according to the DAP. And 75% of the job market is dominated by informal employment characterised by low productivity and low income.
Therefore, city dwellers belonging to the lower segments could enjoy a better life if informal employment were replaced by formal jobs. In that direction, Dhaka will require 1.28 crore jobs by 2035 if every family needs two employed members.
Mixed use of land is expected to make room for more commercial entities and reduce the hassles of the daily commute between workplace and home. It will also increase, "housing options for diverse household types."
In the process, the city may see a rise in uncontrolled urban development. It will also diminish the housing choices of people from different backgrounds and classes
The objectives can be achieved, as DAP says, if at least 40% of floor area is spared for commercial use and monofunctional zoning is reduced to no more than 10-15% of the total land.
However, experts say, in the process, the city may see a rise in uncontrolled urban development. It will also diminish the housing choices of people from different backgrounds and classes, said AKM Abul Kalam, a professor in the Urban and Regional Planning Department of Jahangirnagar University.
An example of the permissible mixed use of land in residential areas such as Shewrapara, Kalabagan and Badda will help understand the problems it can lead to. The revised DAP permits poultry farms, commercial units to spice grinding and manufacturing of shoes and leather goods in those areas.
The conditions include mandatory measures to address the issues of sound and air pollution as well as stench. Moreover, the commercial activities may not impose a burden on utility services such as electricity and water supply. The strict enforcement seems unattainable, given the city's haphazard growth of income-generating activities for decades.
If the road by infrastructure is 80 feet wide or more, 100% of the floor area may be turned into a commercial unit, which should be no more than 50% in case the road is 60-80 feet wide. Likewise, commercial units will have less space if roads are narrower.
But the revised DAP did not specify how many floors of a building can be used for business purposes. So, if every floor of, say, a six-storey building, accommodates a commercial unit alongside apartments for living, that may compromise safety, security and peace of the residents, said Adil Mohammad Khan, general secretary of Bangladesh Institute of Planners.
The revised DAP did not specify how many floors of a building can be used for business purposes. So, if every floor accommodates a commercial unit alongside apartments for living, that may compromise safety, security and peace of the residents
Similarly, farmland can have eco-resorts and salt manufacturing plants, without any restriction on the square-feet of area. That risks a further shrinkage of cultivable land.
In a letter to Rajuk, the Bangladesh Institute of Planners said indiscriminate commercial use of residential plots or buildings would jeopardise the environment needed for housing.
Old Dhaka is a place where residents increasingly see infringement of their civic amenities by commercial units. Over the years, many fire incidents have brought into question how safe the people are considering the economic activities in their neighbourhoods.
The Bangladesh Institute of Planners said a residential building might accommodate a grocery store or a community space for mitigating the needs of residents. A residential area also might have schools, hospitals and shops providing social services.
In the context of the realities that the authorities are confronted with, urban planners at the Bangladesh Institute of Planners think horizontal mixed use can be applied, in which the DAP must mention how much land is to be used for business entities in a particular area and where. The entire area should not be subject to mixed use.
Also, in a building, Adil said shops might be allowed, not manufacturing units, and those should be restricted to the ground floor and first floor.
As for housing in commercial areas, Prof Abul Kalam of Jahangirnagar University said workers of labour-intensive factories should have housing facilities nearby. They must have a separate place to live – even if it is within an industrial zone – as after all, at the end of a day's work, people go home to find tranquillity.