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Necessity of Regional Governance and Decentralization to Increase Livability in Dhaka

Large Populations of Dhaka 


Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is the 11th most populous city globally. It stands out as the world’s most densely populated city, with approximately 43,500 people per square kilometer. The city experiences an influx of an additional 1,700 people daily. Despite occupying only 1% of the country’s total land area, Dhaka is home to around 32% of the country’s population. Dhaka’s centralized nature leads to challenges such as traffic congestion, water pollution, air pollution, and strains on infrastructure, leading to increased energy costs and health risks for its residents.

One of the primary reasons for Dhaka’s population density is the concentration of government offices, industries, educational institutions, and commercial establishments in the city. These essential institutions play a pivotal role in the country’s governance, education, and commerce. As a result, the government of Bangladesh initially established several major government divisions and institutions outside of Dhaka during the rule of former President Ershad. However, political pressures eventually led to the relocation of these institutions back to Dhaka, a move that could be described as self-destructive.

To make Dhaka a more liveable city, it is essential to reduce its population density. Policymakers should recognize that decentralization is the key to success. Without significant efforts toward decentralization, the city’s problems cannot be resolved. Regional governance is a viable solution that warrants serious consideration.

Regional governance involves dividing the country into several administrative regions, each with its local government. These regional governments would be responsible for local development, infrastructure, and administrative functions. Such a system could significantly reduce the centralization of power and resources in Dhaka, thereby mitigating the population pressures on the city.

Let’s know why should  Dhaka through Regional Governance and Decentralization?

Dhaka’s Population Problem :

Dhaka’s unparalleled population density, accommodating over 43,500 individuals per square kilometer, defines it as one of the most densely populated cities globally. Daily, an additional 1,700 individuals flock to this bustling city, seeking opportunities and a better life. While Dhaka covers only 1% of Bangladesh’s total landmass, it houses a staggering 32% of the country’s population. This population concentration has catalyzed various challenges, including severe traffic congestion, environmental degradation through water and air pollution, and heightened health risks.

Traffic Nightmare:

Traffic in Dhaka city
Dhaka’s traffic situation is a well-documented nightmare. The city holds the unenviable distinction of having the world’s second-slowest average traffic speed, with vehicles crawling at just 21 kilometers per hour. The average Dhaka resident loses a staggering 276 hours each year stuck in traffic. To put this in perspective, it would take around seven times longer to travel the same distance in Dhaka’s traffic compared to the war-torn city of Flint, Michigan, in the United States. 

Infrastructure Failures:

Dhaka’s rapid urbanization has not been complemented by adequate infrastructure development. While the city has seen a surge in buildings, shopping malls, flyovers, and highways, it has failed to provide essential public services. The city’s roads bear the brunt of a wide variety of vehicles, leading to chaos and traffic jams. Proper interchanges and efficient bus rapid transit (BRT) systems are glaringly absent.

Environmental and Health Concerns:

The city’s woes extend beyond traffic congestion. Noise pollution, vehicular emissions, and reckless driving have contributed to deteriorating air quality and health concerns. The absence of proper pedestrian facilities, public transportation, public toilets, and waste disposal services adds to the city’s woes. Dhaka’s residents face health risks due to air pollution and noise, while traffic accidents remain a common occurrence.

Dhaka’s Rising Temperature:

El Niño’s influence has brought about a noticeable increase in temperature in Dhaka. This phenomenon is often referred to as the Heat Island Effect. To adapt, Dhaka’s city dwellers have resorted to cutting down trees and filling up water bodies at an alarming rate. Large areas of natural soil and vegetation are being covered with asphalt and concrete. Consequently, the direct rays of the sun now reach and accumulate on these hard surfaces. This slow release of heat during the night keeps the city uncomfortably warm.

Urban Heat Stress:

Due to this phenomenon, Dhaka is experiencing what is known as urban heat stress. With concrete and asphalt taking over much of the city, the surface temperatures have risen. During the daytime, these surfaces become scorching hot, accumulating heat from the sun’s rays. This situation is further exacerbated by the Heat Stressed Environment. As a result, the city is struggling to stay cool.

Dhaka’s Contrasting Temperatures:

Surprisingly, Dhaka’s immediate surroundings, whether rural or within the city, are cooler by 3-4 degrees. This is due to the significant presence of trees and vegetation. These natural elements play a crucial role in moderating temperature, a role that has been overlooked in Dhaka’s rapid development.

Impact on Everyday Life:

The effect of this rising temperature isn’t limited to discomfort. Approximately 70% of Dhaka’s population resides in tin-shed or underprivileged homes, lacking proper ventilation. During the daytime, the city consumes an enormous amount of electricity to beat the heat. As a result, hot air from various electronic appliances is adding to the city’s temperature. However, Dhaka was once a tropical city with a wealth of greenery, and these natural elements helped to keep temperatures

The Role of Construction Materials:

The materials used in building construction, such as cement, sand, steel, glass, and aluminum, significantly contribute to carbon emissions during manufacturing. Once the buildings are constructed, they require operational carbon for running electrical appliances and lighting. The majority of buildings in Dhaka do not provide a gap between them for light and airflow. Consequently, artificial lighting and fans run 24/7, while natural sunlight and breezes remain absent. This not only increases energy consumption but also contributes to a heat-island effect in the city.

Let’s discuss how can we Enhance Liveability in Dhaka through Regional Governance and Decentralization?

Centralization of Government and Institutions:

The centralization of government offices, industries, educational institutions, and commercial establishments in Dhaka has been a contributing factor to the city’s overpopulation and subsequent challenges. This centralization, pursued by successive governments, has created an influx of people seeking employment, education, and improved standards of living. Consequently, Dhaka has become the nucleus of economic activity, leading to imbalanced growth, strain on resources, and social unrest.

The Imperative for Regional Governance:

To mitigate the burdens on Dhaka and foster sustainable development, the establishment of regional governance and the decentralization of key government institutions and offices to other regions of Bangladesh is imperative. Regional governance can distribute economic activities, administrative functions, and infrastructural development more evenly across the country. This decentralization aims not only to alleviate the mounting pressure on Dhaka but also to stimulate the growth of other regions, discourage rural-urban migration, and enhance living standards outside the capital.

Here are some key benefits of implementing regional governance:

1. Population Redistribution: By distributing administrative functions across various regions, people will be incentivized to move to areas outside Dhaka, thus reducing its population burden.

2. Resource Allocation: Regional governments can allocate resources more efficiently based on local needs, resulting in better infrastructure and services across the country.

3. Economic Growth: Decentralization can lead to economic growth in other regions of the country, reducing the pressure on Dhaka as the primary economic hub.

  1. Improved Quality of Life:Reduced population density in Dhaka will lead to less traffic congestion, better air quality, and improved living conditions for its residents.
  1. Disaster Resilience:Regional governments can better prepare for and respond to natural disasters, improving the overall resilience of the nation.

The implementation of regional governance would require careful planning, coordination, and political will. It is essential to involve local communities and experts in the decision-making process to ensure that each region’s unique needs are addressed.

Challenges and Implementation:

Implementing regional governance necessitates meticulous planning and strategic execution. Factors such as infrastructure development, resource allocation, and empowerment of regional governments are crucial considerations. Empowering regional administrations with resources, decision-making authority, and fiscal autonomy is vital for their effective functioning and capacity to cater to the unique needs of their respective regions.

The Role of the Detailed Area Plan (DAP) in Dhaka’s Development:

In 1990, Dhaka embarked on an ambitious urban planning project, which began with the Structural Plan and culminated in the Detailed Area Plan (DAP) in 2010. Despite the initial plan having a timeline until 2015, the DAP is still undergoing revisions and improvements. The potential within the country’s land is immense when it comes to agriculture. For sustainable development, alongside industrialization, there’s an undeniable need to tap into the enormous potential of agricultural land. Additionally, addressing the challenges presented by natural disasters, water scarcity, and global climate change is essential for the development of Bangladesh.

Thinking Beyond Limits: “Sky Is the Limit” for Dhaka’s Urban Development:

While it might be tempting to say that “Sky Is the Limit,” this phrase is a simplistic view. Despite the limitless sky, buildings need to start from the ground up. In the case of Dhaka’s urban development, we must consider factors beyond just the height of the buildings. It’s essential to think about how these buildings are used, transportation infrastructure, water management, electricity supply, waste disposal, and more.

The Influence of Social Media on Contemporary Society:

In today’s digital age, social media has revolutionized the way we communicate, share information, and connect with one another. This technological innovation has brought about profound changes in our lives, both positive and negative. Here, we’ll explore the impact of social media on modern society, from the way we interact with others to its implications for privacy and mental health.

Connecting People Across the Globe:

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have connected people from all corners of the world. We can now easily stay in touch with friends and family, no matter where they are, and even forge new friendships with individuals who share our interests. This global connectivity has opened up opportunities for cultural exchange and the sharing of diverse perspectives.

The Rise of the Influencer Culture

The advent of social media has spawned the influencer culture, wherein individuals who have garnered substantial followings wield the ability to shape consumer choices and public opinion. This phenomenon has evolved into a potent marketing tool, as influencers engage in collaborations with brands to endorse and promote various products.. However, it also raises questions about authenticity and transparency in online content.

Privacy Concerns in the Digital Age:

The digital footprint we leave on social media platforms has raised concerns about online privacy. Personal information and data are frequently gathered without our explicit consent, then utilized for targeted advertising. This has triggered discussions regarding the importance of data protection and the necessity for more stringent regulations to ensure the privacy of users.

Mental Health Challenges:

While social media connects people, it also has drawbacks, particularly concerning mental health. The constant exposure to curated and idealized representations of others’ lives can lead to feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. It’s important to strike a balance between the digital and real worlds and promote healthy online behaviors.


Dhaka’s overwhelming population presents a formidable challenge that demands immediate attention and innovative solutions. The city’s rapid urbanization, coupled with its unmanageable growth, has led to various issues such as traffic congestion, housing shortages, inadequate healthcare services, and increased environmental stress. Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive and multifaceted approach, encompassing urban planning, governance, resource distribution, and regional development.

The decentralization of administrative functions to regional areas, coupled with a strategic dispersal of industries and educational institutions, presents a promising avenue to alleviate the strain on Dhaka. By enhancing the capacity of divisional cities to serve as administrative hubs, each equipped with the necessary infrastructure and services, we can facilitate better access to essential government services without the need for people to converge in the capital. This not only eases the population burden on Dhaka but also promotes a more equitable distribution of resources and opportunities, leading to more balanced urban growth across the country. Moreover, investing in healthcare and other essential services within the regions can ensure that residents have access to quality services closer to their homes, reducing the city’s dependency on these services. By pursuing this approach, Dhaka has the potential to evolve into a more livable and sustainable metropolis, simultaneously enabling other regions to thrive and contribute significantly to the overall development of the nation.


Billal Hossain
Billal Hossain
Billal Hossain, a seasoned professional with a Master's degree in Mathematics, has built a rich and varied career as a banker, economist, and anti-money laundering expert. His journey in the financial sector has seen him in leading roles, notably in AL-Rajhi Banking Inc. in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and as Foreign Relations and Correspondent Maintenance Officer of Bank-AL-Bilad. Beyond the confines of traditional finance, Billal has emerged as a prominent writer and commentator, contributing thought-provoking columns and theses to various newspapers and online portals. His expertise spans a wide range of important global issues, including the complexities of economics, political dynamics, the plight of migrant workers, remittances, reserves, and other interrelated aspects. Billal brings a unique analytical perspective to his writing, combining academic rigor with practical insights gained from his banking career. His articles not only demonstrate a deep understanding of complex issues but also provide readers with informed perspectives, bridging the gap between theory and real-world application. Billal Hossain's contributions stand as a testament to his commitment to unraveling the complexities of our interconnected world, providing valuable insights that contribute to a broader and more nuanced understanding of the global economic landscape.



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