Dhaka Courier

Unlocking principles of intelligent urbanism in Bangladesh

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Every year, early November has been observed as world urbanism or world town planning day.  This special day recognizes and promotes the role of planning in creating livable communities. World Urbanism Day presents an excellent opportunity to look at planning from a global perspective, an event which appeals to the conscience of citizens and public authorities in order to draw attention to the environmental impact resulting from the development of cities and territories. To obtain the goal of SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities, the employment of intelligent urbanism theory is indispensable.

Principles of intelligent urbanism is a theory of urban planning composed of a set of 10 items intended to guide the formulation of city planning and urban designs. They are intended to reconcile and integrate diverse urban planning and management. Those items are environmental sustainability, heritage conservation, appropriate technology, infrastructure-efficiency, land use set up, social security access, transit-oriented development, regional integration, human scale and institutional integrity.

This urban theory proposes that the urban ecological balance can be maintained when fragile areas are reserved, conservation of eco-systems is pursued, and low intensity habitation precincts are thoughtfully identified. Thus, the principles operate within the balance of nature, with a goal of protecting and conserving those elements of the ecology that nurture the environment. Therefore, the first principle of intelligent urbanism is that urbanization be in balance with nature. It also focuses soil erosion, aquifer depletion, siltation and flooding reinforce one another in urban development, saving or destroying life support systems. The principle promotes environmental assessments to identify fragile zones, threatened ecosystems and habitats that can be enhanced through conservation, density control, land use planning and open space design. This principle promotes life cycle building energy consumption and pollutant emission analysis.

Bangladesh is progressing, and it has fulfilled the eligibility criteria to become a developing country for the first time this year. Yet, its capital city, Dhaka, continues to be ranked one of the least livable cities in the world, including in 2018. Dhaka is one of the highest population densities in the world. Therefore, giving quality services and implementing local plans are quite impossible for only two city corporations in Dhaka. Apart from that, the world’s 9 biggest cities include Tokyo (37.2 million), Delhi (36.1 million), Shanghai (30.8 million), Mumbai (27.8 million), Beijing (27.7 million), Karachi (24.8 million), Cairo (24.5 million), Lagos (24.2 million) and Mexico City (23.9 million). In these cities, there is an platform to raise voice and resolve urban environmental crises.

Apart from that, over the last 20 years, Bangladesh has accelerated economic augmentation in order to meet the demands of fast growing population with limited space and natural resources since the independence of the country. Now the country has attained a consistent growth in different sectors -- industrialization, infrastructure development, tourism, health care and food productivity. Such sector centered development merely embraced protection of natural resources and environmentally sound urbanism in the development history of the country. Other context, over the last couple of decades, the country has been grappled with a series of urban environmental deterioration by means of destruction of urban wetlands, cell phone tower radiation, air pollutants, heavy noise induced public health crises, surface water pollution, land degradation, drainage insurgencies, floods have resulted in severe socio-economic and urban ecological damage by a amalgamation of natural and anthropogenic factors.

Although Bangladesh is making some efforts to resolve some of urban environmental crises, no efforts will be adequate to face these challenges without identifying the underlying causes nationally and addressing them locally. To make our cities livable, we need a great push from within the government. Decentralization of power, empowerment of local governments and the establishment of more city councils could be some good first steps. In order for Bangladesh to truly become a developed country, our urban centers would need to be transformed into global cities by 2041. That will require more research and effort to discover a sustainable urban planning strategy that would best suit our cities and communities.

This principle of intelligent urbanism states there is a level of human habitation intensity wherein the resources that are consumed will be replaced through the replenishing natural cycles of the seasons, creating environmental equilibrium. Intelligent urbanism induced opportunities are in urban area: primary education, skill development; primary health care, potable water security, solid waste disposal and hygiene; urban facilities like storm drainage, street lights, roads and footpaths; recreation and entertainment; Transport, energy, communications; public participation; Finance and investment mechanisms; urban open space where goods and services can be produced; and rudimentary economic infrastructure.

If we search for sustainable urbanization through intelligent urbanism theory, we have to address disparities between rich and poor, insecurity and social unrest, diversion of resources to safety and security and inability to cope with demand for services. In urban area of Bangladesh, people are so much insecure to access drinking water, electricity, gas lines, clay, cables and drainage water road, beggar free footpath. As we are targeting for middle income country by 2021, greening the transportation system, ecological hazards free high-rise buildings, co-ordination among RAJUK, DCC, WASA; polluters-pay industrial system, context demands to employ theory of intelligent urbanism.

The planetary crises both for rural and urban area are uprising day by day due to global warming and climate change. The world urbanism day demands the nexus among environmental security, heritage conservation, mass people oriented appropriate technology, infrastructure-efficiency, time-oriented land use planning, social security access, transit-oriented development, decentralization, public participation, regional integration, human to humane development and institutional integrity for good looking sustainable cities and communities.

The writer is an environment analyst & Associate Member of Bangladesh Economic Association.

  • Shishir Reza
  • Unlocking principles of intelligent urbanism in Bangladesh
  • Issue 23
  • Vol 35
  • DhakaCourier

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