Where does Dhaka stand as a city? Compared to other global cities, how does it fare?
Sheikh Zubaied Mahmud, a resident of the capital's Mirpur area, wants to spend time surrounded by natural greenery, but wonders if Dhaka has any such tranquil and idyllic setting.
He says that over the years Dhaka has seen a lot of change in terms of development, including skyscrapers, flyovers, modern shopping malls and movie theatres, but life in this city has become more complex and intolerable.
"A decade back we could go to parks and walk on the roads. But now, the parks are closed in the evening because of security issues. Can you find a place where you can do physical exercise and get close to nature?" asks the 45-year-old banker while talking to The Business Standard.
He says Dhaka's traffic has turned from bad to worse in 10 years, and the waterlogging problem keeps returning during the monsoon.
Zubaied's day starts with anxiety about the safety of his two school-going children.
"The very first thought that comes to my mind in the morning is how my children will go to school and how they will return home. No one can guarantee that they will be safe on the road," he says.
For Zubaied, personal safety – a very basic criterion that makes a city liveable – is a big concern.
Professor Adil Mohammed Khan, general secretary of the Bangladesh Institute of Planners, tells The Business Standard it is mandatory for a liveable city to have facilities to ensure that children can safely go to school and return home by walking alone.
"But in Dhaka city, it is not safe for unaccompanied children to walk to school," he says.
The World Economic Forum says there are three factors that make a city more vibrant and liveable. The first factor is that residents must feel safe, socially connected and included.
Environmental sustainability is the second factor while the third is access to affordable and diverse housing options linked via public transportation, walking and cycling infrastructure to the workplace, education, local shops, public open spaces and parks, health and community services, leisure and culture.
The World Economic Forum says these are essential ingredients for a liveable community. They are needed to promote health and wellbeing, build communities and support a sustainable society.
Zubaied's neighbour Enamul Haque says that the environment in Dhaka is very polluted and that it is no longer a liveable city.
"I spend a significant amount of my time in commuting because of heavy traffic. On average, I have to spend four hours a day on the road to get to work and back home again. Every day I have to struggle to get on and off public transportation vehicles. This is intolerable," he says.
Enamul also points to the high levels of water and air pollution in Dhaka, and the city's poor disaster management services.
"In case of a disaster like the Rana Plaza collapse or a strong earthquake, do the residents have options to escape? Do the authorities have the ability to rescue people?" he asks.
Why Dhaka is among the least liveable cities
Over half of the world's population now lives in cities, and the number will double by 2050. The United Nations believes urbanisation poses several sustainability challenges but also offers opportunities for sustainable development, provided there is proper planning and management.
But where does Dhaka stand as a city? Compared to other global cities, how does it fare?
Due to the centralisation of better services and economic opportunities, Dhaka has seen its population surge 10-fold in 40 years. It is now home to almost 20 million people. Bangladesh has one of the fastest urbanisation rates in South Asia.
More than one-third of the urban population lives in Dhaka. It is one of the world's most densely-populated cities with 440 people per hectare. It is denser than Mumbai (310), Hong Kong (270) and Karachi (270).
Dhaka's low liveability disproportionately affects society's vulnerable groups, such as the poor, women, and the elderly. Living conditions in Dhaka's urban slums are worse than those in rural slums, even though there are more jobs in the urban areas.
Only two-thirds of the people living in the city are connected to the piped water network. A mere three to four percent of waste-water is treated, and only 60 percent of solid waste is collected.
Severe traffic congestion is endemic. This is the consequence of an inadequate infrastructure and public transportation system relative to the high population density.
Dhaka is among the world's most polluted cities, with air pollution levels eight times higher than the guidelines set by the World Health Organisation.
Public and open spaces are limited, and they are also declining due to rapid urbanisation.
Dhaka residents are also worried about food safety and different types of seasonal diseases.
"Are the fruits, vegetables, fish and meat that we consume every day safe?" questions Assaduzzaman Khokon, a resident of Mirpur.
He says the city authorities were unable to address mosquito problems that led to the dengue epidemic in July this year.
"The city turns into a heat chamber in summer. Buildings are so congested. There is no space left to breathe," Khokon says.
Professor Adil, who teaches urban and regional planning at Jahangirnagar University, says limited scope for entertainment and lack of social space could have made Dhaka the most stressful city in the world.
"The development that we see in Dhaka does not cater to human needs. It only benefits people who want to make a profit. There is hardly any space for children to play in the city. They do not have the opportunity to enjoy nature. It is a very inhuman condition for children to grow up in," explains Adil.
The Economist Intelligence Unit has ranked Dhaka among the least liveable cities in the world.
In the latest ranking, Dhaka's position is 139th out of 140 cities. Dhaka is also the least liveable city in the South Asian region.
Moreover, Dhaka's liveability has deteriorated compared to that in previous years. From 2014-2017, Dhaka was the third least liveable city among cities in 140 countries.
The liveability index of the Economist Intelligence Unit is based on 30 performance indicators in five categories: healthcare, infrastructure, culture and environment, stability and education.
Dhaka does not meet the minimum standards of a liveable city in any of the five categories.