Dhaka, then and now
“ Expedients, are for the hour, but principles are for the ages.”
Henry Ward Beecher.
In the forties of the last century as a school student, I came to Dhaka. We used to go to Wiseghat, and then to Buriganga Embankment. The lively river was flowing in all its majesty.
Dhaka had the natural lakes; the canals and the most extensive open spaces. But then came the independence, and Dhaka became the capital of a province. The flow of people was gradual and slow. From the newly built PMG's office building, one could see the wide expanse of 'Ramna Green', the large 'dighi', and the beautiful shaded trees.
Dhanmondi was created by the C&B department, along with the ministry to be a fine residential area, where people could live in a natural habitat, with God's gift of lakes, with its flora and fauna. Even in the eighties, the Dhanmondi Lake had clear water, and was an angler's paradise. But then because of our fault, and negligence it has become a poisonous lake.
In the closing part of the fifties, the Dhaka Improvement Trust came into being. The Gulshan plots were leased out with specific conditions. The building codes, municipal regulations, and environmental laws were all in place. The Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association makes some efforts to save the environment, and so does the Paribesh Andolan Movement. But our ruthless greed overcomes all obstacles. We have gone against nature and it is not going to forgive us.
We had natural lakes in Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara, and Uttara. These would have maintained the environmental balance and would have made our planned residential areas livable. But the residential concept has fled away.
We have now clinics, schools, shops, offices, hotels and restaurants at every conceivable corner. With all the multistory buildings, the city of Dhaka has become one of the worst cities of the world, and an unlivable one.
The 'Detailed Area Plan' of Dhaka tries to save the water bodies, the low-lying areas, and the government lands. If this plan fails, the lives of the citizens will be a nightmare.