'Around 44% of Dhaka's residents are poor and yet they are denied basic access to their rights,' architect Iqbal Habib says

Slum residents pay more money per square foot than people living in Gulshan but are deprived of access to basic civic amenities like water, electricity, sanitation and gas. 

Experts made the observation at “Making an Inclusive City: Securing the Right to Shelter and Livelihood” conference at Brac Centre organised by Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) with the assistance of UK Aid.

The conference on Saturday was attended by urban planners, architects, environmentalists, academics, lawyer, and representatives from NGOs and INGOs to discuss the plight of the urban poor.

Supreme Court lawyer and BLAST chair Dr Kamal Hossain and architect Mobasshar Hossain jointly chaired the sessions and panel discussions where 17 recommendations were made for housing and improving the lives of the urban poor.

“Although it has been 46 years since the Liberation War we have yet to secure housing for the large number of people that qualify as the urban poor who have been living in squalid conditions in slums deprived of their basic constitutional rights to shelter, water and livelihood,” said Dr Kamal.

Co-chair of the sessions architect Mobassher said: “Slum dwellers in Dhaka pay more per square foot for housing than most of the middle-class and upper middle-class residents of areas like Gulshan but at the same time do not have access to basic civil amenities like water, sanitation, gas, electricity, healthcare and education.”

Speaking about land that had been allocated for the poor but ends up being owned by the rich and powerful, architect Iqbal Habib cited Purbachal and Jhilmil as perfect examples of this phenomenon.

“The government acquired land at Tk5 lakh per katha from the poor people to establish the satellite cities of Purbachal, Jhilmil and other but all the plots were later sold to the rich who then sold them for Tk1-2 crores per katha.

“I want to say clearly that we do everything for the rich in the name of the poor who are systematically left out of urban development plans. Around 44% of Dhaka’s residents are poor and yet they are denied basic access to their rights.”