Public parks and other open spaces are vital to the development plan for Dhaka.
Unfortunately, we are failing in this regard.
The World Health Organisation recommends that a city have 9 square meters of park space per person, and 20 square meters of open green space per person. It is woefully obvious that Dhaka is nowhere near hitting those marks.
In fact, Dhaka is short of even the target stated in its own development plan.
A city cannot prosper through economic growth alone. Unchecked urban growth, an over-centralised infrastructure, and bad planning have turned Dhaka into one of the most unliveable cities of the world. Being unliveable has long-term economic consequences. Foreign investors do not invest in unliveable cities; they invest in cities where they think their managers would be happy to live.
We need to pay more attention to public health. This includes giving more importance to the physical and psychological benefits of clean, accessible, open spaces in the city.
Large metropolises around the world have maintained their commercial vitality while also giving open spaces their due importance. New York, Bangalore, Seoul, Toronto, and Paris have all exceeded the WHO’s recommendation for per capita green space.
Dhaka cannot make a miraculous transformation, but it can certainly do better.
If they mayor indeed recognises this, we hope his office will be given the necessary resources to realise the vision for Dhaka as a truly modern city.
It takes long-term vision to create the kind of city residents can be proud to come home, and visitors admire.
Community engagement, and special care taken to include people of all ages genders, and disabilities is an important step.
Women should not fear harassment, or worse, on public parks. Everybody’s safety must be ensured.
If the city corporation is serious about taking Dhaka forward, it should first make sure the city can breathe better. Open spaces will make that possible.