DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES: No oversight ruins capital

Mahamudul Hasan

The high-powered Urban Development Committee created a decade back to oversee the capital’s development activities has been crippled by inactivity.
Urban planners said the UDC simply failed to ensure planned growth of the capital for which it was created by the government.
Asked why UDC does not meet at least once a month as the rules require, housing and public works ministry secretary Md Shahid Ullah Khandaker, who is UDC’s chairman, pleaded his ignorance about its existence.
He told New Age that he would enquire about the committee and convene a meeting immediately.
The last UDC meeting was held on February 26, 2015 chaired by the then housing and public works ministry secretary.
In 2006, the government created the first 12-member UDC under the Dhaka Metropolitan Building Construction Rules 2006.
Two years later, the rules were replaced by Dhaka Metropolitan Building (Construction, Development, Protection and Removal) Rules 2008.
In 2008, the government reconstituted a 13-member committee comprising of housing and public works ministry secretary, chief architect of department of architecture, Rajuk chairman and Dhaka City Corporation’s chief executive officer – and nine non-government representatives under the new rules.
The non-government representatives have to be drawn from Bangladesh Institute of Planners, Bangladesh Institute of Architects the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh and REHAB besides two university professors with engineering and planning backgrounds and three civil society representatives.
The UDC is empowered to recommend policy guidelines and future plans for the development and development control activities and oversee the development activities for the planned growth of the capital.
The UDC is also empowered to ensure the quality of the development activities, their transparency and accountability.
It is empowered to get inspected any building, both in place and under construction and recommend punitive measures if deviations are detected.
Possibly no meetings of the UDC were held for long, said Rajuk chairman M Bazlul Karim Chaudhury, as there were no major issues for the issue based body.
Rajuk chairman is the ex-officio member secretary of the UDC.
Centre for Urban Study chairman Nazrul Islam, who was a member of the first UDC, said that the
remarks of the housing ministry secretary and the Rajuk chairman proved the importance enjoyed by the UDC or whether the government was at all interested to make it functional.
He said that an active UDC could play a significant role in ensuring planned urbanization in the capital.
Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association executive director Syeda Rizwana Hasan, who was also a member of the first committee, said that she was dropped from the second committee as she raised her voice against ongoing unauthorized construction boom.
Sarwar Jahan, BUET’s professor of urban and regional planning, said that had the UDC played its due role no buildings could be constructed without Rajuk’s approval or deviating from approved plans.
He said that there was no alternative to make the UDC functional if the government was serious about planned growth of the capital.
In 2015, the Bangladesh capital was ranked the world’s second least livable city by the Economist’s Intelligence Unit.

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