The inter-ministerial committee, which was tasked to review the old Detailed Area Plan (DAP) of Dhaka, has brought 70% of the changes in the new master plan of the metropolis to legalise filling up water bodies, according to environmentalist Syeda Rizwana Hasan.
In the new DAP, the water bodies have been marked as housing areas, she told a roundtable in the capital on Saturday.
At the programme on Dhaka DAP organised by the Editors Guild, Bangladesh, Syeda Rizwana criticised the government for screwing up the "Water Bodies Conservation Act" – a law formulated by the incumbent ruling party in 2000.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, also the chief executive of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), blamed the inaction of the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) – the implementing agency of the master plan.
"As an environmentalist, I'm just getting hurt as I can't do anything else," she told the programme.
Architect and environmentalist Iqbal Habib said most of the people in Dhaka are deprived of proper accommodation.
"More than 44% of people in Dhaka live in slums. They pay Tk44-Tk48 per square feet while the rich pay Tk28-Tk32 per square feet as rent in upscale areas like Dhanmondi, Gulshan and Banani. The solution to this inequality must be in the DAP," he noted.
The architect said the master plan will not be accepted if it cannot provide the housing solutions to all.
Citing data of the new DAP, Iqbal Habib said only 5% of the houses in central Dhaka are fully regulated.
Disagreeing over the number of slum dwellers, DAP project Director Ashraful Islam said less than 20$ of people in Dhaka live in slums. He said, "We plan to build 1 lakh apartment units for the lower and middle-income people by 2035."
Architect Mubasshar Hussain, president of the Institute of Architects Bangladesh, said the Rajuk does not have the capacity to implement the DAP. A city government is needed to implement it.
Apart from housing, urban planner Adil Mohamamed Khan said a mega-city master-plan should have adequate emphasis on roads, open spaces, parks, fields and other facilities.
Dhaka north Mayor Atiqul Islam said there are still scopes for discussion and revision of the new DAP.
National River Conservation Commission Chairman Manjur Ahmed Chowdhury the DAP has been formulated without discussing with them.
According to the new DAP, he said there will be a blue network of about 574km and water-centric eco-parks.
"But unfortunately there was no discussion with us so far. There are many topics in the DAP that are in conflict with the laws. It is important to discuss and revise those quickly," he commented.
Editors Guild President Mozammel Babu moderated the programme while architect Golam Nasir and Real Estate & Housing Association of Bangladesh (Rehab) Vice-President Shohel Rana were also present.