The launch of the Metro Rail Line-6 from Diabari to Motijheel will herald a change in the communication system of the capital, complemented by an increase in civic amenities.
Officials concerned said the metro rail will decrease travel time and costs, while at the same time it will also boost the country's economic growth and create millions of new jobs.
According to railway officials, the train will run from Diabari in the capital to Agargaon via Pallabi and Mirpur by December this year. In 2024, the train will run from Diabari to Motijheel. About 75% of the project, called MRT Line-6, has already been completed.
Housing hubs, various business establishments, factories, educational institutions, hospitals and various civic centres are already being set up in Uttara 12, 15, 16, 17 and 18 sectors, Mirpur 11 and 12, and Pallabi areas of the capital centring the project.
MAN Siddique, managing director of the Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited, told The Business Standard that when the first line of the MRT is completed, the gross domestic product will increase by about 1%. At the same time huge numbers of people will be employed in the project area.
He said the Diabari area was known as a dumping area when the MRT project began. There were few settlements there.
But over the years, housing hubs have been set up in the area and commercial activities are almost already in full-swing.
In addition, small businesses will also be attracted to the areas around all the 16 stations on the route.
Experts, however, warned that if unplanned urbanisation became a consequence of the development, then it could undo all the benefits.
Stakeholders of the metro rail project said that the 24 sets of trains will operate every day from 5am to 1pm, carrying 60,000 passengers per hour. About five lakh commuters will be accommodated every day.
MAN Siddique said Motijheel can be reached in just 36 minutes, a distance of three hours by road from Diabari, adding that the population in Diabari area was increasing due to the commuting convenience.
There is a station from Uttara to Motijheel every one kilometre. Of these, three stations are being set up in the Diabari area. People from Uttara will come and go through Diabari stations, said officials concerned.
Transport experts said that if the railway system is properly introduced, it will save a lot of time and money for commuters, especially those living in Uttara.
New housing hubs
The MRT-6 centres Mirpur 11, 12, Pallabi, Diabari (Uttara 15, 16, 17 and 18 Sectors), Panchabati, Uttara West Avenue and Birulia. Various real estate and housing companies have started work on hundreds of new housing projects in these areas.
Real estate insiders say the investment in these new housing projects is around Tk50,000 crore. The development has also meant scores of jobs.
The notable housing projects in the Diabari area include the Rupayan-Uttara City project in Sector 15 of Uttara. The project is being implemented on about three acres of land, where 100 large and small apartments will be built.
Ahsan Habib, marketing officer of Rupayan, told TBS that the investment in this project alone was around Tk200 crore. Most of the under construction apartments had already been sold, he said, adding the apartments would be handed over to the buyers within the next year.
Giving an idea about how property values had started rising, he said apartment sales had begun before the construction in 2018. At the time, the price per square foot was Tk7,000, while last year it rose to Tk9,500.
Out of the more than 100 apartments, 40 had been sold last year and the other 60 sold in the two years before that.
There are around 30 housing projects in the Diabari area, including ones by Green Property Development Limited, AK Housing Ltd, Adore Design and Development Ltd, Zamzam Properties Limited and Western Holdings Limited.
Meanwhile, work is underway on about 10 new housing projects in the Uttara West Avenue area. More than 200 apartments are being built in these ten projects.
About 30 new projects are also underway in Pallabi, and Mirpur 11 and 12 areas, sources said.
Work for another 20 real estate projects is also underway on the east side of Birulia Bus Stand and Dhaka Beta Club area.
The housing projects, along with the metro rail, have come as a blessing for many.
Former district judge Nurul Haque, chairman of the law department at Shanto-Mariam University of Creative Technology (SMUCT) in the Diabari area of Uttara, said travelling to the university from his rented house in Dhanmondi was quite costly.
"I bought a flat in Mirpur-11, which I will get in June this year. It will take a maximum of 10 minutes to travel to the main campus from Mirpur by metro rail. So I have arranged to live in this area. I hope I can move around without any hassle," he said.
Naimul Hassan, director, Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh (REHAB), said that not only noise-free housing, but also about 10,000 new jobs are being created in these areas as the houses need security personnel, electricians, cleaners, building managers, etc.
He said many new housing projects are being set up not only in Mirpur, Pallabi, Uttara and Diabari areas, but also near the other stations on the route.
In all, housing for one lakh people is being provided in these areas.
Samiul Islam, managing director of Ehsan Fashion, is proud of the eight-storey factory that is being built on one bigha of land in Diabari.
The company has a smaller unit in Gazipur. The larger factory is being set up in Diabari, keeping the ease of commute and thus availability of workers in mind. The factory is set to go into production next year, employing some 1,000 people.
In the same area, a shoe company, New Hassan, started its factory in June last year. It currently employs 60 people.
Similarly, many new businesses and factories are being set up in Mirpur 11, 12, Pallabi and Panchabati adjoining Diabari, Uttara West Avenue and Birulia areas centring the metro rail. These include garments and light engineering factories, food manufacturers and many others.
Hamidur Rahman, president of the Apartment Owners Welfare Association of the Uttara 3rd Housing Project, said it was expected that new workplaces for millions of people would be created and housing would be made to accommodate the new arrivals.
Besides, five big private hospitals are also being set up in this area. A hospital of Eastwest Medical College has already been set up in the northern part of Diabari. A large hospital and diagnostic centre is also being constructed in Birulia.
Md Saidur Rahman Sujan, chairman of Birulia union council, told TBS that metro rail would make commuting easier, attracting investors. Demand for land had already risen as reflected by their prices, he added.
The main campuses of SMUCT, World University and Atish Dipankar University of Science & Technology (ADUST) have already opened up near metro rail No.1 station in Diabari area.
A campus of Dhaka International University (DIU) in Birulia area, Sonargaon University (SU) campus in Pallabi area, the main campus of Presidency University in Uttara West Avenue area, and academic buildings of Leading University, Prime University and East Delta University in Birulia area are all being constructed.
Professor Rafique Uddin Ahmed of ADUST told TBS that with the launch of the metro rail would make it convenient for students from any part of the capital to attend at the universities in these areas, while teachers would also benefit.
Various private universities had bought the lands in these areas 10-15 years ago and now had the opportunity to buy more land at low market prices in case they had expansion plans.
He said that the three universities, which were already running academic activities, had over 15,000 students. Besides, about 1,000 people had already been employed and around 2,000 more teachers, officers and staffers would get jobs when the other universities open.
Apart from the universities, many local and international standard schools and colleges are being set up in these areas.
A branch of Cambrian School and College is being set up in the Uttara West Avenue area, while a branch of Oxford International School is being set up in Sector 15.
In addition, six more schools and colleges are being set up in the Diabari area.
No to unplanned urbanisation
Adil Muhammad Khan, a city planner, said the MRT-6 project would play a significant role in improving the communication system of the capital, but he cautioned the authorities to check unplanned urbanisation centring the railway stations
He said there would be development, but to make that sustainable it was necessary that all establishments were made and approved according to a specific plan.
In addition, many types of small businesses would mushroom near the 16 railway stations. "We have to make sure that those areas do become unsuitable for living because of those," he said.
Policy Research Institute (PRI) Executive Director Ahsan H Mansoor said while the MRT would play a role in the economy, it was still not possible to gauge how much the impact would be.
He, however, said that jobs would be created for millions of people.
"We will be able to enjoy the benefits of the metro rail properly only when the system is made centring the capital," he added.