The success of Dhaka, one of the megacities of the world, is critically important for the economic and social development of Bangladesh. The city's astonishing growth, from a population of 3 million in 1980 to 18 million today, represents the promise and dreams of a better life: the hard work and sacrifices made by all residents to seize opportunities to lift themselves from poverty towards greater prosperity.
. Dhaka's growth has taken place without adequate planning, resulting in a city with extreme congestion, poor liveability, and vulnerability to floods and earthquakes. Many residents, including the 3.5 million people living in informal settlements, often lack access to basic services, infrastructure, and amenities.
Unplanned and uncontrolled growth has created unprecedented congestion: the average driving speed has dropped from 21km per hour 10 years ago to less than 7km per hour today. Congestion eats up 3.2 million working hours each day and costs the economy billions of dollars every year. Some of the most important economic benefits from urbanisation are missed out due to this messiness, resulting in lower incomes for the city and the country.
These problems will not go away on their own. Dhaka's population is expected to double once again by 2035, to 35 million. Without a fundamental re-think requiring substantial planning, coordination, investments, and action, Dhaka will never be able to deliver its full potential. Dhaka is at a crossroads in defining its future and destiny.
Up to now, urban growth has mainly taken place in the northern part of Dhaka and expanded westward after the flood of 1988, when the government built the western embankment for flood protection. This resulted in high-density investments near the city centre, where infrastructure and social services were accessible. However, real estate investments were not coordinated with other infrastructure and transportation services.