Nurul Islam Nazem, treasurer of the Centre for Urban studies, who was also the keynote speaker at the session titled ‘Urban Environment and Climate Change’, said that 21 per cent of the population migrated to Dhaka, has come here due to climate change related issues.
The slums in Dhaka, Chattogram, Khulna, Rajshahi, Sylhet and Barishal cover only four per cent area of these cities where more than 35 per cent of the city dwellers live. In some of these slums, more than 100,000 people live per square mile.
This session was presided over by AQM Mahbub, vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University. Addressing the session he said, “Some development projects of the country have increased pollution. Despite being less responsible for climate change, Bangladesh is suffering a lot for its consequences. There are laws for the protection of the environment. However, they are not being implemented. The situation will get worse if the Dhaka-bound migration cannot be controlled."
Maksudur Rahman, professor of the geography and environment department at the University of Dhaka, said, “Climate change is affecting the environment of the cities. The temperature in urban areas is rising. The two cities of Dhaka are producing an excessive amount of methane gas.”
Iqbal Abdullah Harun, additional secretary of the environment ministry, said, “A clearance from the department of environment is needed for setting up industries. Many are spending a lot to get this. In order to reduce methane gas emissions, cultivation of high-yielding paddy should be stopped.”
Sharif Jamil, general secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (BAPA), also addressed the session conducted by CUS’ executive member Bidhan Chandra Pal.
The issue of urban poverty ignored
Golam Mortuza, a former professor at Khulna University and vice-president of CUS, was the keynote speaker at the session titled 'Urban Economy and Poverty'. He said there are differences in the life standards between different cities and suburbs. The rate of urban poverty reduction is quite low.
The session was chaired by emeritus professor ATM Nurul Amin of Asian Institute of Technology. He said there are many opportunities to decentralise Dhaka which are not being utilised.
Saima Haque, a professor of economics at Dhaka University, said, “Inequality is increasing with development. Not everyone is getting equal opportunities.”
Alok Paul, a professor of the geography and environment department at the Chattogram University, said, “The CUS has been conducting numerous researches and has been advising the government for the last 50 years. However, no one concerned has taken any steps regarding this.”
Zulfiqar Ali, a researcher at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) and MS Siddiqui, executive member of CUS, also addressed the session.
The government agencies need to be the guide
The topic of discussion in the third session of the programme was 'Urban-Land and Housing'. Secretary of CUS, Salma A Shafi was the keynote speaker in this session. She said the poor people in the cities are not benefitting from the government housing project. No plot has been allocated for the poor in the Purbachal and Jhilmil housing projects in Dhaka.
Md Moslehuddin Hasan, professor at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), said the kind of governance needed for building a sustainable and environment and elderly-friendly city is absent at the moment. For this, he suggested a new ministry named ‘The Ministry of Urban Development’ under the leadership of the prime minister.