Over the last few years a new wave of unplanned urbanisation has changed the landscape of Dhaka, leaving the city dwellers in risk. The construction of high-rises has overthrown Dhaka’s lands and playgrounds. The consequences of unplanned urbanisation are already evident in the poor living condition. Thus, vulnerabilities posed by poorly-planned urbanization are also increasing, as reflected through different disasters such as Chawkbazar chemical tragedy, Bhasantek slum fire incident in recent times in Dhaka. On the other hand, Bangladesh was previously known for rural hazards especially flood, but these days urban hazards have become more frequent and harsher. Living in this overcrowded jungle of concrete, it is horrifying to imagine how would this town survive if an earthquake takes place? Would all the dwellers get to evacuate? Is this town ready to tackle the consequences of a disaster like what we witnessed recently in Chawkbazar and Nomtoli?
Because of rapid and poorly planned urbanization, Dhaka is becoming more and more vulnerable to both natural and man-made hazards. Dhaka is characterized by the poor living standards, building construction without consideration of safety measures, lack of public awareness to hazards, and poorly enforced building code.
Many buildings are rising without proper zoning concept and guidelines as the city authorities allow poorly constructed buildings and old buildings to live. These buildings are very much vulnerable to earthquake, fire hazards and other types of building collapse causing unnecessary deaths.
Considering all above, strengthening urban governance has become very much necessary from the part of the government and city planners. Disaster needs to be ingrained in urban and national strategies.
There are numerous characteristics of current urban planning and development that pose serious threats to the life and wealth of city dwellers. For example, the lack of enforcement of building code, planning permission and regulatory investment, often linked to corruption, allow the transfer of risk from construction companies to those who live and work in the buildings.
In order to ensure proper safety to reduce the disaster risk, it is of great concern to have a good control over the entire practice of design and construction of structures. Loss of human life and properties can considerably be reduced if the entire system can be brought under a well-planned strategy.
Experts from related arena and different stakeholders who are properly trained should work together under one umbrella to ensure a risk resilient infrastructure system.
For making the cities safer and reducing urban disaster risks, there is no alternative other than building capacity of local government for ensuring effective services in emergency situations. It is very much important to strengthen the capacities of the city authorities and immediate disaster response team. Proper implementation of land use plan and enforcement of building code are also important to make an urban area more resilient to disasters. Multi-hazard approaches need to be ensured in policies, regulations and plans to reduce urban risk that will make Dhaka safer in the long-run.
­