Bangladeshi Conference on Urbanization, Traffic Jam and Environment with revised deadline for Submission
Special conference on
Urbanization, Traffic Jam, and Environment
Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) and
Bangladesh Environment Network (BEN)
In association with
Universities of Bangladesh and
Other pro-environment organizations
To be held on
January 7 & 8 (Friday & Saturday), 2011
At venue (to be determined), Dhaka, Bangladesh
The urban, in particular, the capital city-centric development strategy is causing people from all across the country to flock to the Dhaka city, leading to an explosion of its size, so much so that it is now hard to demarcate its borders. Yet, the infrastructure necessary for urban life has not expanded in a commensurate manner. As a result, basic urban utilities, such as housing, transportation, electricity, water, drainage, sewerage, etc. are now in acute shortage. Greenery and water bodies are disappearing. Parks, gardens, and open spaces for recreational activities are becoming a rarity. Distressing slums are spreading at the same time as high rises are being built.
Horrific traffic jam is gradually bringing Dhaka city to a standstill. Traffic jam is spreading to other cities too, and it is imposing a huge cost on the economy in many different ways. In particular, it is discouraging many investors, affecting negatively the country’s economic growth prospects.
Meanwhile, pollution has become a serious threat. Thanks to the efforts by BAPA, BEN, and other pro-environment organizations, the two-stroke engine vehicles (TSEV) have been removed from the streets, so that the urban air quality is now somewhat better than what it was in late 1990s. However, the air quality still remains dangerously poor. The volume of household waste is increasing, and its composition is worsening due to rising share of plastic and other non-biodegradable components. Medical waste is increasing, and there is yet no separate system for its disposal. Electronic waste, often containing radioactive elements, has become a serious problem. Untreated sewerage continues to contaminate neighboring rivers unceasingly.
Industrial waste has now become the most dangerous threat. Lacking Effluent Treatment Plants (ETP), most industrial enterprises are dumping their toxic effluents into neighboring water bodies and rivers. As a result, the river Buriganga, which gave birth to the Dhaka city, is now biologically dead. The rivers Shityalakkha, Turag, and Balu are also meeting the same fate. The river Karnaphuli in Chittagong is also facing serious industrial pollution. Industrial pollution is poisoning urban land and air too.
Besides pollution, the erroneous, Cordon Approach towards rivers, pursued for decades under foreign advice, is disrupting the rivers, while causing miseries to the urban life. The so-called flood protection embankments are disconnecting cities and towns from neighboring rivers. As a result, water bodies inside cities and towns are decaying and getting encroached and filled up. At the same time, by preventing rainwater from passing on to the rivers, these embankments have given rise to the new and increasingly severe problem of water-logging. By encouraging below-flood-level settlement inside them, the embankments have made many more people vulnerable to flood, creating for them a very risky situation. Ironically, embankments have in general failed to protect towns from river erosion and in many cases have actually aggravated the erosion.
The pollution and Cordon Approach to rivers have created a crisis in urban water supply. On the one hand, the Cordon Approach has encouraged dependence on groundwater. However, relentless withdrawal has now caused the groundwater table to descend, making further extraction of groundwater difficult, and creating a vacuum and raising the danger of subsidence. On the other hand, pollution has now made neighboring river water unfit for consumption.
The Dhaka-centric development has resulted in relative neglect and lack of development of district and upazilla towns. Adequate investment and resources are not directed towards them. In fact, the country faces a vicious circle, whereby lack of development in district andupazilla towns is causing their affluent people to flock to Dhaka, fueling its further development while perpetuating and even aggravating underdevelopment of district and upazilla towns.
On the other hand, tragically, the district and upazilla towns, in whatever urbanization effort they can afford, are following the footsteps of Dhaka city. They are also filling up water bodies, cutting down trees, building embankments to sever connections with rivers, extracting groundwater, inviting water logging, increasing vulnerability to flooding, polluting the environment, and aggravating rich-poor divide with regard to access to urban utilities and other public services.
Overall, urbanization in Bangladesh is facing a crisis. Yet, the current urbanization rate is only about 20 percent. Given the crisis that it already faces, one wonders how Bangladesh will achieve urbanization rates of 40 or 60 percent. In the past, the country did achieve some progress in reducing the population growth rate. However, subsequent complacency and increase in the population base figure have now resulted in huge annual increases in the total population size. Urbanization in the context of such a huge and increasing population is posing a mindboggling challenge.
Unfortunately, there is as yet no integrated, comprehensive, and effective effort to overcome the urbanization crisis that Bangladesh faces. Urbanization efforts so far remain ad hoc, isolated, and partial in nature. In many cases, these efforts contradict and nullify benefits of each other. For example, the “Western Embankment,” built to protect Dhaka city from flooding, has now become a major cause of water logging. Similarly, while talking about solving traffic jam problem, the government is taking many steps that are aggravating the problem. In yet another example, the government is failing to make owners to set up ETPs in their industrial enterprises, even though it is expressing its resolve to free rivers from pollution. Overall, there is a lack of vision and integrated effort in resolving urbanization issues.
How can Bangladesh overcome the urbanization crisis? How can Bangladesh make use of its small size and dense population to reduce rural-urban difference and thereby lessen the urbanization pressure? How can Bangladesh attain dispersed urbanization in order to avoid unwieldy mega cities? How can Bangladesh ensure balanced development of district and upazilla towns? How can Bangladesh make urbanization pro-environment? How can Bangladesh solve the special problems of towns and cities threatened by river erosion? How can Bangladesh make urbanization poor friendly?
It is urgent to find answers to these and related other questions. A national brainstorming is necessary for this purpose, and the proposed conference is being organized to facilitate such an exercise.
The general aim of this conference is to analyze the urbanization crisis that Bangladesh faces and arrive at an effective integrated solution of this crisis with special attention to traffic and transportation problems. To this end, the conference sets before itself the following concrete objectives:
1. Identify the main problems of urbanization in Bangladesh and classify these problems in accordance to the size and nature of cities and towns of the country;
2. Investigate and reveal the interconnections among different problems of urbanization with special importance given to transportation and communication problems;
3. Reveal the connection between urbanization problems and the national development strategy;
4. Consider the relevant international urbanization and transportation experience and derive its lessons for Bangladesh;
5. Formulate an integrated and effective urbanization and transportation strategy, distinguishing its long-run and short run policy implications.
To achieve its aim and objectives, the conference will strive to bring together all who are involved with urbanization problems and the efforts to resolve them. Among them will be
1. Resident Bangladeshi, non-resident Bangladeshi, and foreign experts on various urbanization issues;
2. Representative of various city and township authorities (corporations, councils,Pourashavas, etc.);
3. Representatives of government ministries, directorates, authorities, agencies, and corporations concerned with urbanization issues;
4. Representatives of political parties;
5. Representatives of various concerned citizens’ organizations;
6. Representatives of various business associations involved with urbanization;
7. Representatives of various labor and professional association involved with urbanization;.
8. Representatives of various NGOs and CSOs concerned with urbanization;
9. Representatives from district and upazilla towns;
10. Other citizens and residents of cities and towns.
Conforming to BAPA-BEN tradition, this conference too will have a dual format, comprised of the following two types of sessions:
Expert Sessions, where papers by experts on different urbanization issues will be presented and discussed; and
General Sessions, where no written papers will be presented and instead representatives of city and town authorities, different urban related policy making and implementing agencies, political parties, business organizations, professional and labor organizations, NGOs and CSOs, and other participants will present their experience and views.
In addition, there will be the Opening and Closing sessions and the Strategy session where the resolutions of the conference will be adopted.
Apart from the sessions above, the conference will have many other components. There will also be many pre-conference events.
The specific topics of the conference will include the following:
Urbanization: Crisis and Prospects
Current trends in urbanization in Bangladesh and future projections
Urbanization crisis and Bangladesh development strategy
Dispersed urbanization in Bangladesh: prospects and problems
Urbanization and Disasters
Possibility of earthquakes and preparedness
Natural and urban flooding
Urban fire hazard and preparedness
Urbanization and Environment
Urbanization and parks, gardens, and open spaces
Urbanization and air, water, and soil pollution
Urbanization and Water
Urbanization and the approach to rivers
Urbanization, water-logging, and flooding
Urbanization and wetlands
Urbanization and Transportation
Traffic jam and congestion problems
Public and freight transport and communications modes: road, railway, waterway, etc.
The special role of biking in Bangladesh urbanization
The special role of walking in Bangladesh urbanization
Urbanization, Housing, and Settlement Pattern
Reorganization of rural settlement pattern and reducing rural-urban divide
Urban housing and land market
Housing need, economy, and affordability
Urbanization and Population
Population growth and urbanization
Urbanization and the poor
Urban land, transportation and utility policy and the urban poor
Special problems of the slums
Urban economic and settlement growth and the poor
Strategy and policies for pro-poor urbanization
Urbanization and basic utility services
Urbanization and water supply
Urbanization and sewerage
Urbanization and electricity supply
Urbanization and industrial waste
Urbanization and household waste
Urbanization and medical waste
Urbanization and electronic waste
Urbanization and Governance
Urbanization and city and town governance issues
Institutional morphology, distribution and empowerment issues
Relative roles of the public and private sectors in urbanization
Role of private developers and housing construction companies
Role of RAJUK as regulator and developer
Special problems of urbanization
Special problems of divisional cities
Special problems of port cities
Special problems of district towns
Special problems of upazilla townships
Special problems of cities and towns facing river erosion
Urbanization, Planning, and Building Codes
Dhaka Master Plan and Detailed Area Plan (DAP)
Building codes and rules
Conservation and heritage issues
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