Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, is in a continuous process of urban expansion. This is a common phenomenon in many developing countries, where cities lose control over urban growth patterns. The need to cater for high population growth and inward migration from rural areas theoretically reinforces governmental policy towards city expansion. In support of this policy, the Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan 1995-2015 (DMDP) proposed new urban development guidelines for development in the twenty-first century. The DMDP recommends the outward expansion of the city by encroachment on suburban and agricultural land. More roads and highways are recommended to link with the sprawling new developments, leading to a vision of a low-rise, low-density city form, with long journeys-to-work. However, this planning proposal lacks any comprehensive study of the reality of Dhaka’s inner city, and fails to take account of the cost of developing infrastructure on the fringe (Rodger, 1991).
Examination of the inner-city core reveals a tendency towards high-density built form, giving close proximity between place of residence and place of work. Transportation is of a poor quality; there is insufficient provision of appropriate transport modes and inadequate infrastructure. As a result, there are questions about the built form most appropriate for Dhaka city—a future megacity with a population growth of more than 2.2% per annum (Weekly Independent, 1996).
At present, suburban and agricultural land is being transformed and prepared for vast new towns. However, these new towns are like ghost towns, driven by the false hope of attracting real-estate developers and buyers who may need to wait for several decades to recoup their investment on these barren lands. As Dhaka city restructures towards high-density built form through private initiatives, there appears to be an imbalance between the demand for high-density central development and the new policy for Greater Metropolitan Dhaka. Imbalance between economic transformation and institutional response seems to exist in most Asian cities (McGee and Robinson, 1995).
This chapter examines the rapid restructuring of the inner city towards high-