After the formulation of Dhaka's Detailed Area Plan (DAP), the government has consistently faced pressure from influential circles with vested interests. The recent initiative to revise DAP is seen as a continuation of this trend.
If DAP undergoes modifications under the influence of powerful individuals or groups without involving all stakeholders in discussions, it could severely deteriorate the livability of Dhaka city.
These concerns were discussed in a virtual session titled "Dhaka Detailed Area Plan (DAP) Revision Initiative: IPD's Observations," organised by the Institute for Planning and Development (IPD) on a Saturday morning. Professor Adil Mohammad Khan, the Executive Director of IPD, delivered the keynote address during the session.
IPD has demanded an immediate halt to the DAP revision initiative, expressing their reservations during the virtual discussion. The organisation emphasised that revising the DAP without considering the city's livability is unfair and raises questions. IPD alleged that the interests of real estate companies and associated professionals have been prioritised without adequate consultation with all stakeholders in the DAP revision process.
IPD highlights that plot owners and real estate companies have a vested interest in increasing the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) in the DAP because of the potential financial gains and profits involved. On the other hand, general residents are in favour of the DAP's proposals regarding population density and building height, recognising the potential to enhance the livability of the city.
Incidentally, as FAR increases, the width and height of the building increases. It reduces the free space.
While explaining the content of the DAP modification proposal, Adil Mohammad Khan stated, "Firstly, the modified proposal will address the issue of granting exemptions in building height for both public and private housing projects for a period of at least three years. Secondly, for the subsequent three years, those interested in constructing buildings within government and private housing projects will be given an additional 0.5 FAR as an incentive, attributing to the reserved designated space.
"However, incentives are already provided in the existing DAP for government and private planned housing projects. The DAP currently maintains a higher FAR than the global standard. We have been advocating for a reduction in FAR, but now there's a suggestion to increase it."
The executive director of IPD further explained the potential impact of the DAP revision. He emphasised that if the proposed changes are implemented, it could lead to the construction of large buildings adjacent to narrow roads, hindering the entry of light and air into these structures. This lack of natural elements can disrupt the mental and physical well-being of the occupants.
Furthermore, the absence of light and air may force individuals to rely on air conditioning, increasing electricity consumption and heat. Additionally, overcrowding due to more people residing in limited spaces will strain road infrastructure, reduce water supply, eliminate playgrounds, and exacerbate traffic congestion, creating a complex interconnected problem.
Adil Muhammad Khan noted that several areas in Dhaka, including Uttara, are already experiencing a decline in habitability due to excessive FAR. He also expressed concerns about increasing traffic congestion in Uttara's narrow alleys and suggested that Purbachal might face similar challenges if the proposed changes are implemented.
IPD strongly believes that the practice of Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) compromising with corruption and muscle power needs to be minimised. According to IPD, if RAJUK continues to compromise, regardless of how effective DAP is, its effectiveness will be compromised.
During this virtual discussion, Farhadur Reza, Associate Professor of the Urban and Regional Planning Department at Jahangirnagar University, emphasised that extending the FAR should not be done so easily. It should be increased based on scientific research. He expressed doubt that any such study had been conducted for the revision. Reza further stated that altering FAR without scientific research would undermine the DAP's goal of developing a habitable Dhaka city.
When asked about IPD's objections, the Project Director of DAP, Md. Ashraful Islam, told Prothom Alo that the Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh (REHAB) and architects had called for a revision of DAP.
He mentioned that if the government deems there is a rational proposal in the greater interest of Dhaka city, they may consider revising it. However, he said that the government would not take any decision that would compromise environmental and other critical aspects of Dhaka city.