UDC inactivity a bane for urban planning

THE inactivity of the high-powered urban development committee set up a decade ago to oversee development of the capital is unfortunate. The committee met last on February 26, 2015 although it is supposed to meet at least once a month. What is more unfortunate is that the housing and public works secretary, who is to head the committee, expressed his ignorance of even the existence of the committee. Besides, the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha chairman, member secretary ex officio of the committee, said that the UDC had not met for long as there were no major issues. He described UDC as an issue-based body, although, keeping to the Dhaka Metropolitan Building (Construction, Development, Protection and Removal) Rules 2008, its area of jurisdiction is wide. It has the authority to recommend policy guidelines and plans on the development of the capital and to oversee development to ensure a planned growth of the city. Its oversight authority also includes ensuring the quality of development activities and their accountability and transparency. It can inspect any building, in place and under construction, and suggest punitive measures against owners in case of deviation from approved plans.
As the committee is composed of different categories of people conversant with urban planning and construction, an active UDC has, indeed, reasons to play a significant role in the planned urbanisation of the capital. Regrettably, however, this is perhaps why the committee top brass appear to be unwilling to let it discharge the stipulated duties. Dhaka has already become almost an unliveable city as the intelligence unit of the Economist has ranked the city among the worst liveable cities for a few consecutive years. The city has been ranked so also because of, among others, its unplanned growth in the past few decades when Rajuk approved the construction of thousands of concrete structures, most of which lacked any mechanism to allow natural light and air flow, on water bodies filled with sands caring little about the building code and the laws on wetland conservation. Nor did it take adequate steps to prevent influential entities rampantly grabbing open space and water bodies in the city in the period. Allegations have been rife for long that almost all, in charge of the housing and public works ministry and Rajuk, have so far allowed all such misdeeds in exchange for gains.
The government pledge-bound to build up a liveable and healthy Dhaka, under the circumstances, needs to come forward without any delay not only to make the UDC functional but also take the authorities concerned to task over its inactivity.

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