Dhaka's Detailed Area Plan threatens 70% natural waterbodies: architects, urban planners | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 25, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 09:43 PM, November 25, 2020

Dhaka's Detailed Area Plan threatens 70% natural waterbodies: architects, urban planners

Despite LGRD Minister Tajul Islam's assurance at a press conference last Sunday that Dhaka will be transformed into a modern and liveable city, the proposed Detailed Area Plan (DAP) for the capital is facing severe criticism from architects and urban planners.

At a press conference yesterday, members of Institute of Architects Bangladesh (IAB) spoke at length about the flaws in the DAP draft, which has been formulated by consulting firms Sheltech and DDC under a work order by Rajdhani Unnayan Katripakkha (Rajuk).

Implementation of this draft will result in seventy percent of natural waterbodies disappearing, architects warned, adding that flood flow zones will be severely hindered under this plan.

"There is a clear point in the Terms of Reference for preparation of the DAP, which mentions demarcating rivers, canals, water bodies, water retention and catchment areas based on surveys done during the British and Pakistani eras and mouja maps," said Jalal Ahmed, president of IAB.

"The draft DAP has ignored this point, and proposed a modification in the classification of flood flow zones," he said.

Flood flow zones are areas which typically remain dry, but store water during rainy season. These are essential to prevent waterlogging in the city.

"The draft DAP proposes two separate terms for the current zones -- primary waterbody and general waterbody. This draft mentions allowing construction (conditionally) on the general waterbodies, which will be severely detrimental to the city and its people," said Jalal Ahmed.

Upon implementation of such plans, the city will risk losing 70 percent of its waterbodies, and the proportion of flood flow zones will be reduced to 17 percent. "The 1997 structure plan intended to keep 66 percent flood flow zones," said Iqbal Habib, joint secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa).

IAB pointed out multiple loopholes in the proposed draft, which includes withdrawal of the mandatory provision of keeping car parking facilities in buildings.

"The draft DAP proposes a community parking system, but does not specify where and how they will arrange the land for such a parking system. So this proposition may end in cars occupying more space on the roads due to the lack of parking [in buildings], said IAB's former president Kazi Golam Nasir.

There are many roads in and around Dhaka that are too narrow and in need of development. With the expansion of urbanisation, not extending these roads even by a minimum level will be a suicidal decision for the city's development, opined IAB architects.

IAB proposed enlisting 2,200 structures that the court has declared protection for, as heritage sites in the DAP. At present, the number of heritage buildings of Dhaka are steadily declining as businesses and other entities continue to encroach and demolish the structures.

IAB architects also pointed out that this DAP draft does not evaluate the failures and successes of the previous DAP, which should be an essential step before undertaking a new plan.

"Much of the information and statements in the plan are not supported by solid research, or they did not disclose whatever research was done," said IAB architects.

The draft also incorrectly cites the Dhaka Metropolitan Building Construction Rules-2008 as "obstructive", said the architects. "The 2008 rule dictates that every building must have some specific amount of open space to allow sunlight and wind to pass through for healthy ventilation," said Nasir.

In the proposed DAP, only five percent area has been designated as purely residential, while the rest will be a mix of residential and commercial. "If this is approved, the entire city save from government spaces and private residences will become commercial," observed IAB architects.

In the proposed DAP, they have kept a provision to allow constructions that deviate from the building codes and do not have approval. All they have to do is pay a fine. "This sets a bad precedent for everyone," said the architects.

Despite over 40 lakh people living in slums, the DAP makes no emphasis on low-cost housing facilities for low-income and poor people, observed IAB.

The architects of IAB urged the government to extend the deadline for finalising the DAP and take the opinions of experts, stakeholders, and the public for a thorough examination of the draft.

Architects Dr Farida Nilufar, Dr Abu Sayeed M Ahmed, Marina Tabassum, Ehsan Khan and Ishtiaque Zahir also addressed the programme.

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