Dhaka has been ranked the fourth least liveable city in the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit's annual global survey.
The EIU's Global Liveability Index ranks 140 cities based on more than 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across five broad categories: stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.
Bangladesh's capital had ranked the third least liveable city in the EIU's Global Liveability Index 2019 and the second worst in the 2018 index.
This year, Dhaka has been ranked 137th among 140 cities with 33.5 points. It scored 55 in stability, 16.7 in healthcare, 30.8 in culture and environment, 33.3 in education and 26.8 in infrastructure.
Auckland, New Zealand's most populous city, has been ranked as the most liveable city in a world that is continuing to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Damascus, the war-torn capital of Syria, remains the least liveable city in the world with 26.5 points, while Lagos of Nigeria ranked 139th with 31.2 and Port Moresby of PNG ranked 138th with 32.5.
Among other South Asian countries, Karachi of Pakistan has been ranked in among the 10 least liveable cities, at 134th place with 36.2 points.
Auckland replaced Austrian capital Vienna, which had been ranked most liveable in the last two indexes, at the top of the list.
That is largely due to New Zealand's successful handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, which allowed schools, theatres, restaurants and other cultural attractions to remain open during the survey period from February 22 to March 21, 2021, according to the EIU.
New Zealand implemented a strict nationwide lockdown for several weeks last year to slow the spread of the virus. It also shut its international borders to most travellers.
Cities of the Asia Pacific dominated the top 10 rankings this year, even as the pandemic caused overall liveability around the world to decline.
The top 10 most liveable cities in the world, and their scores according to The Global Liveability Index 2021, are: Auckland, New Zealand (96.0), Osaka, Japan (94.2), Adelaide, Australia (94.0) Wellington, New Zealand (93.7), Tokyo, Japan (93.7), Perth, Australia (93.3), Zurich, Switzerland (92.8) Geneva, Switzerland (92.5), Melbourne, Australia (92.5) and Brisbane, Australia (92.4).
Due to the pandemic, the EIU added new indicators such as stress on healthcare resources as well as restrictions around local sporting events, theatres, music concerts, restaurants and schools.
Adil Mohammad Khan, general secretary of Bangladesh Institute of Planners, said the state of housing is not included in the EIU's list of factors, but if it were, the condition of Dhaka's residents would be seen to be even more sordid than it currently is.
Adil said most neighbourhoods of Dhaka city are totally in an unliveable condition. The government is undertaking mega projects but is not focusing as much on taking on projects to improve the environment at the community level.
As a result, there is shortage of green spaces, parks, lack of proper development of roads and drainage systems, he said.
"Our liveability index will not improve as long as we do not pay proper attention to improving the environment and civic facilities at community level," he said.
It is cause for optimism that mayors of Dhaka are now paying attention to improving civic facilities at the community level, Adil said.
The Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) mayor has prepared a master plan in which ward-based development plans have been included, which is a good sign, he said.
Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has also adopted plans to develop its extended wards in a planned way, which is also a positive, Adil said. Along with the new wards of two city corporations they will also have to ensure civic facilities at the old wards, he said.
"Dhaka is already home to a population that is three times higher than its actual capacity and the government will have to take steps to control it on an urgent basis.
"Otherwise the liveability index will not move upward," Adil said.
Criticising the pattern of the survey, Iqbal Habib, joint secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, said EIU did not consider the population density of Dhaka.
They are comparing Dhaka, where 47,800 people live per square km, with cities with 112 people per square km or 128 people per square km, which is very unfortunate and unacceptable, he said.
"They will have to consider this density in their marking to make it acceptable, otherwise this measurement will not help us at all," he said.
"We have to utilise our possibilities in a planned way and it will have to be implemented properly but we are failing to do so. We are also conducting operations through agencies that are unaccountable, which is why we are failing to ensure sustainable development. And we failed to ensure people's participation in planning and its implementation and management. This is our shortcoming and we have to focus on it," said Habib.