Flawed city area plan set to get govt nod
The government is set to approve the Detailed Area Plan (DAP) of Dhaka metropolitan city soon despite strong objections by experts and environmentalists due to its serious flaws that are likely to have terrible impact on urban life and environment.
Sources in the Ministry of Housing and Public Works said the plan, which reclassified the city land use categories and designed Dhaka's flood flow areas as urban residential zones, might get approval on December 24.
Experts alleged that the ministry and Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) are in a hurry to approve the plan which would bring fortune to land grabbers and real estate developers at the expense of open space, wetland and food production.
"If the plan is approved without careful review and corrections, the environment and the environment for city dwellers will be jeopardised," fears Architect Iqbal Habib, joint secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon.
Director (programmes) of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela) Syeda Rizwana Hasan said one of the four consultants of DAP is involved in real estate business and thus emphasised land developers' interests, not city dwellers'."
She said DAP violates the letters and spirit of the Wet land and Open Space Protection Conservation Act, 2000, Bangladesh Environmental Protection Act, 1995, Building Construction Rules, 2007, and Private Housing Project Land Development Rules, 2004.
Denying all the allegations, Housing and Public Works Secretary ASM Rashedul Hai told The Daily Star that they had finalised the DAP considering all the aspects.
“Rajuk did its best to formulate DAP rightly. We also held public hearings on it for two months but none of the people now raising allegations had turned up to give their reactions," he claimed.
Supporting the secretary, Project Director of DAP Tapan Kumar Nath said execution of the plan was urgent to check the current indiscriminate urbanisation of the capital. "It is high time we implemented the DAP."
Architects, planners and environmentalists have been saying DAP deviated from the original Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan (DMDP), known as master plan, and demanded a technical committee of professionals to guide the plan.
"It will be a way for land grabbers to legalise filling up of more water bodies and open spaces and legalising already filled up water bodies," said Rizwana, adding that there are many areas in the structure plan of DMDP identified as flood flow zones but DAP identifies those as housing areas.
"Dhaka will be more vulnerable to flood and will be inundated after regular rainfall if the DAP is implemented," observed Prof Nizamuddin Ahmed of the Department of Architecture, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet).
He said DAP proposes to convert fertile agricultural land into plot for residential and multipurpose use. "DAP proposes only 5.05 percent of land as retention pond whereas the figure is 12 percent in the Flood Protection Programmes (FAP)," he said.
Experts and environmentalists said DAP gives priority to high income or rich people neglecting the poor or low-income and middle class citizens. DAP proposes to acquire Badda-Merul residential area for the extension of Gulshan and Banani.
DAP also ignores the demand for enough open space for the city population as it keeps hardly one bigha of open space for every 1000 residents. Such space allocation is very little compared to populous cities like Karachi and Hong Kong.
It also proposes to use the land of Dhaka Central Jail for commercial and housing after moving the jail to Keraniganj even though environmentalists demanded to turn the whole space into a park.
According to DAP, many of the flood flow zones identified in the structure plan of DMDP would come under housing areas. The zones include Itahata, Basan and Kadda Nandon moujas of Basan union, Kasimpur, Gobindabari moujas of Kasimpur union, Savar of Savar union, Kandi Baliarpur mouja of Bangram union, Bara Badeshi of Aminbazar union, Nandakhali and Tetuljhara mouja of Tetuljhara union parishad.
Pointing out many inconsistencies, Rizwana said DAP is not legally permissible. She alleged Rajuk is trying to approve it without following proper procedures.