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Dhaka’s doom in DAP failure

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tawfique Ali


This file photo is a glaring overview of how messy the growth of Dhaka has been on both sides of the Buriganga without DAP implementation. Unbridled grabbing of wetlands, farmlands and rural homesteads went on over the years, with successive governments turning a blind eye to and sometimes facilitating the irrevocable planning disaster. Photo: Anisur Rahman


Tragedies like the Rana Plaza collapse loom large over the capital, as the government is yet to implement vital recommendations in the Detailed Area Plan (DAP), say experts. “Structural and industrial disasters may occur further, as development has taken place defying the authorised land use plan,” said Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury, who headed the DAP expert body.

The nine-storey Rana Plaza at Savar, on the outskirts of the capital, collapsed on April 24 this year, killing 1,132 people, mostly garment workers. It was built without the approval required under building construction law. Besides, a fire at a chemical factory in the capital’s Nimtali residential neighbourhood claimed 125 lives in 2010, while a deadly blaze at Tazreen Fashions in Ashulia killed 112 workers in 2012.

Jamilur Reza said thousands of industrial units and other structures have been built on the outskirts of the capital, like in Savar, Ashulia, Turag, Tongi, Demra, Rupganj, Keraniganj and parts of Gazipur and Narayanganj, flouting the rules of land use. This happened due mainly to slack monitoring by the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), which attributed its failure to do the job properly to lack of manpower.

The capital city’s master plan was supposed to be implemented over an area of 1,528 square kilometre with the DAP, which indicates every structure, lake, canal, wetland, retention pond, road, open space and all topographical features, and outlines authorised land use plan. But the government’s compromising stance on enforcing the DAP allows earth filling of reserved wetlands and flood flow zones by powerful real estate developers and illegal building constructions, Jamilur said.
“Real estate developers have filled up nearly 83 percent of designated wetlands and flood flow zones of the capital,” he said, adding, “The government appears to have yielded to financial and political power of the real estate developers.”

Prof Sarwar Jahan, who teaches urban and regional planning at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, said consequences of such destruction of flood plains and wetlands would be water logging, and destruction of ecology, rivers, and wetlands, and food crisis and health hazards. The DAP has earmarked one-third of the master plan area as flood flow zones, water retention ponds and water bodies.

The salient recommendations in the DAP include reclamation of over 2,500 acres of flood flow zones and agricultural land from the grip of illegal housing schemes, relocation of 3,000 industrial units and scrapping of 16 development projects. None of the recommendations has been fully implemented. The DAP was finalised and published in the official gazette in June 2010, but its implementation was soon made subject to a “final” review by a seven-minister committee in the face of fierce opposition from real estate developers and Dhaka lawmakers.

Rajuk Chairman Md Nurul Huda said, “We could not implement major DAP recommendations, as the seven-member cabinet committee did not give any directives.” Rajuk is now working on preparing another DAP, as the existing one expires its 20-year time limit in 2015. “Many vital planning provisions incorporated in the present DAP are feared to be scrapped in the new plan,” said the Rajuk chief.

Khondker Shawkat Hossain, secretary to the housing ministry, said, “We will conservatively reconsider turning cropland into settlements, as change in land use becomes unavoidable over time.” Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, said the government move for a new DAP was an attempt to legalise earth filling of vast tracts of wetland that were vital for environment conservation and liveability.

“It’s an attempt by the government towards the end of its tenure to have negotiations with the unscrupulous realtors to reap undue gains before the general election,” she observed.



Source: thedailystar



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