Experts stress decentralisation to ‘save’ Dhaka

Amid the mounting pressure of  population on the sprawling Dhaka city, experts have said it is not mega structures but decentralisation can help solve the city’s growing problems.Talking to UNB on Saturday, the urban and local government experts said decentralisation can help ease many problems of the mega city, paving the way for overall and balanced development of the country and reducing the growing population pressure on the capital.
They suggested ensuring necessary services at the doorsteps of people at the grassroots as it is a prerequisite to decentralisation.
Professor Nazrul Islam, an urban specialist, said the policy of decentralisation has to be followed to ensure overall development of the
“We’ve no alternative to decentralisation …every district town needs to be prepared so that it can provide desired services to people,” said Nazrul Islam, also the former chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC).
Mentioning that the country’s present population stands at 16 crore, Prof Nazrul Islam projected that it will hit 22-25 crore in the next 25 years.
”There’s is a possibility of internal migration of 3-4 crore people from coastal areas due to the adverse impacts of climate change, rise in the sea level.”
“People will move to urban areas for survival. The situation is now fragile, and it’ll worsen further in the future if we don’t go for
decentralisation adopting a new development policy,” Nazrul said.
He observed that urbanisation is a process for development, but it creates a negative impact if it is concentrated on one or two cities of a country.
In reply to a query that the decentralisation issue is being discussed widely for years but there have been no follow-up actions, Prof Nazrul Islam said the top leadership cannot perceive the need for decentralisation.
“All the political parties talk tall about it, But they clean forget about it when they come to power. Instead of strengthening the local government, they rather make it weaker,” he added.
Prof Nazrul Islam observed that the Upazila system introduced by military ruler HM Ershad was a good one for decentralisation though it had some flaws. “Things would have been better today had we been able to continue the system by bringing necessary amendments to it,” he added.
Short supply of water, frequent power outage, rising house rent, lack of recreational facilities, air pollution and deteriorating law and order  situation have made the life in Dhaka city miserable. Besides, there is a chronic growth of the city’s skyline and unplanned building of mega structures.
Local government specialist Prof Tofael Ahmed said Dhaka is turning to a worst livable city of the world. “Only 1.26 percent water bodies were filled here in 2004, while in 2009 the percentage rose to 40 percent and in 2012 it hit 70 percent.”
Posing a question as to why everything has to be concentrated on Dhaka city, Tofael underscored the need for turning divisional cities into centre points of development.
“Why there should be everything in Dhaka? Why one has to come to Notre Dame College for higher secondary education or for coaching. Will there be no education facilities outside Dhaka?” questioned Tofael, a former member of the now-defunct Local Government Commission. “If we concentrate on district-based development, why do people need to come to Dhaka?”
MM Akash, a prominent economist and professor of Dhaka University, said it is urgently needed to go for decentralisation to reduce the pressure of population on Dhaka city.
Akash blamed inadequate financial capacity and political constraints for the reluctance of the government to go decentralisation.  “The concentration of investment and expenditure is on Dhaka city and even the lobbying for that is huge,” Akash added. (Source: UNB)

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