Fact that Dhaka has been ranked as the second least liveable city in the world doesn't come as a shock. And why should it since, so little has been done to change its worsening condition. The shock would have come if the Global Liveability Index had declared Dhaka number 1 the list of the 'Cities that collapsed '. Whatever, liveability indexes are prepared based on a whole range of criteria including culture, healthcare, education, environment and infrastructure. We know in which of the parameters we are lagging behind, but constantly failing to address them. Why? Because since independence we have never focused on the most crucial aspect of the city, and that is its: booming populace. Despite all workshops, seminars and Talkshows about solving the problems of Dhaka can anyone confirm if there was an initiative ever taken to prevent its population explosion?
Scope and plan of a city's infrastructure, road communications system , environment, and ranges of many other factors, are designed as according to the need of a specific number of inhabitants. And it's the population of Dhaka that has increased far beyond limit. The in-flow by the thousands every day is adding extra load. No one is there to restrict and control this human flood and therefore the city fails to cater to the needs of more than it can bear. The city houses no less than 15 million people but was the city – when planned - meant for this mammoth number of people? Lamenting Dhaka's present condition is not the solution but the realisation behind being worse must come and come immediately. If all the conditions of Dhaka are to improve in a broader spectrum, then its capacity for accommodating its citizens should be specified. We must also get out of the mind-set that owning an apartment and a car in Dhaka defines symbol of status. Need of the minute is to declare that ' think many times before settling in Dhaka as there is a ceiling up to which extra capacities can be added to the city's strength , and after that the city will just collapse'. If mass migration cannot be stopped then the city will collapse just due to population density and then where will you go?
Since solution by decentralizing is not likely to happen any time soon so we have a lot to worry about. By no means am I trying to discourage people from other parts of the country to come and live in Dhaka, but thinking deeply about its problems – the perennial traffic gridlocks, destruction of its wetland and green spaces, encroachment of its pedestrian space to its failing transportation and communications system to an ailing waste management scheme – and all that includes the city's cruel reality have happened because its population boomed unfettered. We are the ones to decide if we want to stop it.
The writer is Current Affairs Analyst, The Daily Star