RAJUK’s capacity in plan
implementation and development
control of Dhaka city
by Md Akter Mahmud
RAJUK (the capital Development Authority), former DIT, was established in 1956 and entrusted with responsibilities of improving the physical and urban condition of Dhaka city. It is the supreme authority for three specific areas - preparing plan for Dhaka city, execution of plan and control its development within its jurisdiction. Presently, Dhaka has become one of the fastest growing cities in the world and its population is more than 12 million. Around 350 thousand new people are added to the existing city population every year, which creates huge pressure on traffic and transportation, housing, power, gas and other utility services. It has become almost impossible for the city development agencies to deliver housing, transport and other services to the city dwellers. So, every year, the city’s environment is getting worse than the previous year.
RAJUK miserably failed in the plan execution, especially control of its development as per the plan and the norms and planning laws of the city. RAJUK provides ‘Planning Permission’ and ‘Land use Clearance’ to the private land owner to construct any structure on his/her land in the urban areas in accordance to the compatibility of the master plan. It is the only method to implement the master plan and maintain desired land use of an urban area. But due to serious shortage of skilled manpower, corruption in the planning permission process, lack of visionaries and weak monitoring capacity of RAJUK, Dhaka city grew in a haphazard way and has turned into an unmanageable mega city. Living conditions have deteriorated very rapidly and the social as well as physical infrastructures are on the verge of collapse.
In the urban areas of Bangladesh, local government (municipalities) or government nominated agency (development authorities like RAJUK, CDA, RDA etc) prepares the city plan and sets the broad goals and objectives of the development plan. All the strategies in the plan package needs to be translated into specific land use and space requirements. Since, land in the urban areas is scarce and valuable, it is necessary to allocate the spaces in such a way that it could ensure the optimum utilization of resources, as various uses of land competes with each other.
Ratecliff (1993) explained ‘certain planning standards are followed to control the physical setting of the urban area and to ensure safety, health, amenity welfare, convenience, efficiency and public interest.’ A system of development control introduced in UK under the provisions of the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act which required for the first time that all future building development and any material change in the use of the building would, henceforth, be subject to the need for planning permission from a local authority (Ratecliff, 1993).
In Dhaka city, RAJUK is the legitimate public agency of issuing approval of any building construction, which is known as planning permission. This agency was entrusted with the job of preparing plan for Dhaka city, ensuring development as per the prepared plan and controlling the future development (Mahmud 2006). Planning Permission consists of two phases of approval namely - land use clearance and building permission. ‘Land use clearance’ certificate is given after examining the compatibility with master plan and ‘Building Permission’ is for proper designing of a building as per the Building Construction Rules of RAJUK.
RAJUK exercises development control function as per provisions laid down in the East Bengal Building construction (EBBC) Act, 1952 and its subsequent amendments and the rules and by-laws framed there under. Presently, RAJUK exercises six legal instruments for the development control of Dhaka City’s land use. They are:
l Town Improvement Act 1953
l Mohanagar Imarat Nirman Bidhimala 2008
l Building Construct Act 2006
l Private Residential Land Development Rules 2004
l Wet Land Conservation Act 2002
l Development Metropolitan Development Plan (DMDP) consisting of Structure Plan, Urban Area Plan and Detailed Area Plan.
Every construction/erection/excavation within the jurisdiction of RAJUK requires permission/approval from the authorized officer or Building Construction Committee appointed under the provision of the Town Improvement Act, 1953. Any type of building construction - housing, commercial, industrial and whatsoever - need planning permission and they must be in conformity with the land use provision of Master Plan/Urban Area Plan/Detailed Area Plans of different SPZ’s.
Due to RAJUK’s weak development control mechanism, development control of Dhaka city characterised in the following ways:
Firstly, the whole process of planning permission is criticized with lot of allegations like - unnecessary delay of file processing and harassment, coupled with bribery and corruption.
Secondly, overlooking or ignoring the provisions of planning laws intentionally from both RAJUK and client end.
Third one is more technical and that is incompetence of RAJUK in lacking skilled manpower and insufficient urban planners in the planning department.
Fourthly, which happens in the implementation stage, is violation of plan by the people, construction without planning permission etc for the lack of effective monitoring by RAJUK.
Dhaka: a mono-centric city
Historically, Dhaka has always been the focal point of the country and grew as a mono-centric city. Presently Dhaka city has a population of more than 12 million, which is three times more than the second city Chittagong and 10 times than the third one, Khulna. It has about 37 per cent of the total urban population. The rest 63 per cent urban population is accommodated by the other 521 urban centres of Bangladesh. Dhaka city absorbs more than three lakh people every year, which is more than the total population of 500 urban centres of Bangladesh each. After independence in 1971, Dhaka faced a phenomenal growth of urbanization. Urban population density in Bangladesh was 2179 persons/sq.km in 1991 and the present density is estimated at approximately 3008 persons/sq.km. Population density of Dhaka mega city was found to be 4795 persons/sq.km in 1991 and the present density is estimated at approximately 8573 persons/sq.km. However, the population density of DCC area is more than three times of the megacity area, as in 1991 it was 15333 persons/sq.km against estimated present density of 18055 persons/sq.km (BBS, 2001). With limited availability of flood-free land, further densification of population along with haphazard encroachment of peripheral land of Dhaka as well as in other urban areas of Bangladesh seems inevitable. Dhaka has the lion’s share of urban population.
The primary reason of this fast growing trend of urbanisation of Dhaka is largely attributable to the establishment of capital city, locations of various government and non-government offices, industrial and commercial organisations, educational institutions etc. (Jahan, et al, 2007).This rapid pace of urbanisation creates extreme pressure on basic utility services such as shelter, water, electricity etc. For instance, presently, the water demand of Dhaka is 210 crore litres per day and the supply is 170 to 180 crore litres per day. Thus Dhaka is facing shortage of water of 30 to 40 crore litres every day (Daily Prothom Alo, 2008,). Lion’s share of water supply of Dhaka (86.26 per cent) comes from groundwater. Groundwater extraction puts heavy pressure on the city’s water table, especially when most of the city’s supply of water depends on what the tube wells extract from the ground. As a result, ground water table is lowering 2-3 meters every year which has become an environmental threat to the city dwellers.
Violation of city plan
The validity of the 1959 Master Plan ended in 1981. Thereafter, up to 2010, there was virtually no valid plan for Dhaka city. The 1959 Master plan was carried up to the recent time, when the Detailed Plan was prepared within the framework of DMDP Structure Plan and got approval of the government, though its implementation is still uncertain. As a result of the absence of the city’s master plan in the last 30 years and the weak monitoring system of development authority, Dhaka grew haphazardly at a time when the pressure of growth was tremendous.
Geological formation of land is extensively important in the urbanisation process. Historically, even up to the early seventies, Dhaka city grew and expanded according to the land formation on it flood free areas. But with the faster urbanisation process in the last four decades, scarcity of land and importantly, lack of development control, the city started to grow on the low lands around the city; natural drainage system, wetland and open spaces were seriously hampered by occupation of development. In this period of time, urbanisation has taken place in two ways; densification in the built up areas and city expansion for new urban areas in the low land surroundings of the city. During 1990-2000 about 270 sq km of wetlands in and around Dhaka city were filled up. Due to encroachment of wetland, rivers and natural canals, city’s environmental aspects are under serious threat. Sufferings of city dwellers rose manifolds as uncontrolled intensification of development increased the overall density of the city. Gross and net density was not considered as means of development control. As a result, open spaces, agricultural land, wetland etc turned into urban areas without sufficient provision of infrastructure, services and facilities.
Planning permission and development control
Planning permission is the only technique to materialize the plan into reality, control the development into a desired form and implement the planning standards, planning rules and regulations. Processing of planning permission involves two stages: 1. Land Use Clearance and Building Permission. Land use clearance is given with the conformity of master plan and building permission is given as per the provisions of Mohanagar Imarat Nirman Bidhimala 2008. RAJUK failed miserably in implementation of Building Construction Rules for many reasons like - lengthy and slow process of plan permission, lack of monitoring at the field level, corruption and absence of expertise etc.
Violation may occur in different ways in different respects. If a building plan does not comply with the rules and regulations of the concerned authority as stated it is called violation of rules. The building owners may cause violation, the building designers and the erector can also violate rules. Violations are if, building construction does not follow construction rules of the local authority or does not follow Building By-laws or follow setback rules. Sometimes owners follow the building construction rules partially and sometimes they violate rules completely.
Total Violation: Most of the old buildings have same problem of constructing buildings without due permission causing total violation. This kind of buildings also does not follow the building construction rules as stated in the books published by the Government.
Partial Violation: This kind of violation is intensively committed by the building owners. After taking the plan permission almost 95 per cent building owners in Dhaka city are in someway violating the ‘Building Construction Rules 1996’. Types of violations are:
Constructing floors more than it was permitted
Construct buildings covering open spaces as shown in the approved plan
Internal rearrangement of approved design without permission
Increase floor space from the first floor and above by extending cantilever
Change its floor use without permission
From a survey in 2005 it was found that more than 90 per cent of the buildings were constructed violating the rules of BC Rules 1996 irrespective of planned and spontaneously developed areas of Dhaka city. From the result of survey it was found that even in the Uttara Model Town 86.66 per cent markets and commercial buildings don’t have the parking space as specified in their approved plan from RAJUK. Most of the markets use their basement for renting shops. So that users of that commercial buildings and markets park their cars on street occupying the road, reducing carriageway of road and resulting in traffic jams. The question is ‘did the town planners/building inspectors of RAJUK not notice it?’
The Mohanagar Imarat Nirman Bidhimala (The Mohanagar Building Construction Rules BCR 2008)
The Building Construction Rule (BCR)-2008 was framed through an intensive three-year effort of professional bodies, experts and civil society members in consultation with government, after examination of building control tools in various countries, and with specific consideration of land supply, population density and resource constraints of Bangladesh. FAR (Floor Area Ration), a new technique of growth management, was introduced in this rules. Though it has some good aspects it has caused some serious debate among the practitioners. It will surely increase the density of the city, say some.
RAJUK failed to implement the Building Construction Rules 1996 which was easier and straight forward to execute. It would be very unrealistic and optimistic to implement BCR 2008 without the rearrangement of the institutional capacity of RAJUK which was the major constraint in the successful implementation of BCR 1996. Without removing that constraints it would be a great challenge to implement BCR 2008.
From the findings of few researches it was found that more than 90 per cent buildings of Dhaka city violated the rules of BCR 1996 where there was a mandatory limitation of buildings’ height. But in the BCR 2008, FAR was introduced and mandatory height limit was eliminated. It would be a great challenge if RAJUK fails to monitor strictly the building construction. Gross density would increase, which is against the spirit of planning and BCR 2008.
Three things must be done immediately:
A Changing Dhaka as a focal point of urbanization by facilitating the other divisional, district and upzilla towns for investment.
B Controlling Dhaka’s further growth
C Implementation of planning laws strictly.
D Dhaka city, itself, has a good potential for regional planning and to disperse its development to the other urban centres around it by adopting TOD (Transit Oriented Development) along with its regional transit corridors. At least 14 urban centres like: Manikganj, Savar, Dhamrai, Kaliakoir, Gazipur, Sripur, Kapashia, Kaliganj, Narshingdi, Rupganj, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, Srinagar, and Nawabganj etc have the locational advantage to grow as TOD of Dhaka city. It will need only uninterrupted transportation systems connected with the urban centres, either by road or train. All of the centres are within the commuting distance from
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