Dhaka...My Dream

Khaled Hasan

2012 - 2013

Artistic Statement:

Dhaka, with 15 million people, is the fastest growing megacity in the world and one of the poorest. Dhaka is the keeper of strong survivors, restless migrants and climate refugees. If a city is made of dreams and desires then a megacity is made of dreams, desires and fears. Dhaka is a child of random, feverish urbanism. For some this urban giant is like a daydream, for many a nightmare.

Dhaka, the city where I was born, and the city that still has the scars from two major revolutions that had shaped the future of our country. This is the same city, which attracted different kingdoms starting from the Mughals, the Dutch, the Portuguese and the English raj. This is the same historic city that took part in the fight for freedom and the fight to speak its own language Bangla. Dhaka stores within her million dreams, in its every layer it stores laughter, anger, passion and love. Dhaka shaped me to understand my childhood and my teenage. In its very alleys I have secretly learnt to smoke my first cigarette and take part in my mischievous acts. The city gave me friends and enemies but we all have one thing in common no matter how bad we curse the city or we complain about its congestion and its irregularities, we love our beloved city Dhaka.

Every morning Dhaka wakes up with its arms wide open and makes us feel close to it with its warmth and its potential in it. We always expect our city to give something to us we wait for it to come to offer and us what Dhaka has got for us. But we never realize what we have done to Dhaka midst of everything that is important to us we have actually forgotten the very important part of our life ”Dhaka”. We never look back what Dhaka was like and what we have to it in the name of our lifestyle and development. We have forgotten the fact that this is the place we have learnt to dream. This is the same city, which played the most important part in each of its dwellers life. It gave us shelter from all the mishaps that would have happened to us, provided us comfort, gave us memories to cherish and most importantly still allows us to be with it. Dhaka accepted us in every shape form and size; it provided us with whatever we need, starting from small corner tea stalls to Paris feeling restaurants to Singapore feeling shopping malls. It accepted us the way we are. But do we look after our beloved city Dhaka? We have stopped her veins by stopping her waterways in the name of development. We blocked her lungs in the name of industrialization. Rather than giving her comfort we ransack her each and every moment and to top it off we curse her of not being perfect. We have stopped her from the very little things like sunshine. We often say in a rather funny way this is the only city where motor vehicle and boats can go side by side. Would be let this happen to our living room? Any individual would not allow to get his living room to get flooded during the monsoon, or freeze during the blistering cold or dry out during the scorching heat of summer. But unlikely we allow this to happen to our Dhaka.

Detail Statement:

With rising population growth, the urbanization in Bangladesh is also taking place at a quick pace. The current population of the country stands at 164.1 million out of which 12.7 million people live in the capital, Dhaka. One estimate says by 2050, 57% of people will be living in cities, compared to 26% in 1990. By 2015, Dhaka may become one of the densest cities of the world and going to be hyper city. The unplanned urban development coupled with urban population growth will result in increased demands for transport, energy and other infrastructure that in turn will result in high emission levels.

Global temperatures are inching upward. And in Bangladesh the sea level is rising, salinity of coastal rivers soaring; droughts, floods and cyclones are more ferocious than ever, food production shrinking— providing an unyielding push to half a million villagers to migrate to Dhaka each year.

Like any megacity Dhaka has a distinctive spatial form, a complex unit of production and a single labor market. The urban system designed a hundred years ago for less than a million is blatantly unworkable for a population that has exceeded 10 million and is being tested for 15 million.

A mosaic of environmental issues, which are similar to the problems other megacities are facing, badgers Dhaka. For instance, Buriganga once a lifeline of Dhaka is now a biologically dead river. Dhaka’s rivers Buriganga, Shitalakhya, Turag and Balu are now septic tanks. The water is a stinking, black gooey gel.

Ecologically fragile Dhaka has stretched its carrying capacity. It already suffers from a catalog of environmental ills. The development rate is limping. Almost 50 percent of the megacity’s population lives in slums.

The polarization between the rich and the poor is widening and squatters are swamping Dhaka. Half of Dhaka’s population lives in ramshackle one or two-room houses made of crude brick, straw, recycled plastic, cement blocks and scrap wood. They end up in areas directly adjacent to garbage dumps, toxic-chemical industries, sewage treatment plants, noxious fumes, or freeway crossings. They are suffering environment hazards at the same time they are compounding it by encroaching the riverbanks and green spaces. The slums are not connected to the municipal sewage disposal. Garbage is never collected. The slum dwellers cook on open-charcoal stoves or use dung and fuel wood in poorly ventilated homes causing fatal air pollution.

The capital may also experience increased temperatures from rising levels of vehicle exhaust emissions, increased industrial activities and increased use of air conditioning. The air of Dhaka is full of black smoke, like that of almost all megacities. Solid waste disposal is a major issue and open landfills are a common sight in Dhaka. The black smoke of discharge from old cars, beat-up buses, and superannuated trucks is intolerable to breathe, burning eyes and throats. The traffic congestion has elbowed out environment-friendly bicycles and rickshaws. The lead concentration in the air is ten times higher than the government safety limit.

There is a detail area plan but in Bangladesh and in Dhaka particularly there are lots of good ideas and good plans but no implementation. And the violators and protectors of law are the same people. So we have a problem there. It is called the megacity or hyper city because of the tremendous population. Its already crossed 15 millions about 16 millions people in Dhaka city. It is expanding on both sides. Dhaka is actually an island surrounded by four rivers on four sides. But now it is oozing outs beyond the rivers with bridges coming in but it has to expand but most of Dhaka was a wetland. Though the wetland have to be protected if you want to have an ecosystem functioning in and around Dhaka. Unfortunately we are destroying this ecosystem of the wetland and creating lots of problem.

Dhaka, with 15 million people, is the fastest growing megacity in the world and one of the poorest. Dhaka is the keeper of strong survivors, restless migrants and climate refugees. If a city is made of dreams and desires then a megacity is made of dreams, desires and fears. Dhaka is a child of random, feverish urbanism. For some this urban giant is like a daydream, for many a nightmare.

Dhaka stores within her million dreams, in its every layer it stores laughter, anger, passion and love. Dhaka shaped me to understand my childhood and my teenage. But now Dhaka is wrestling urban violence, industrialization and other exigencies.

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  • In the cracks on walls and ant holes, we bury our bulging greed, asking for just a little more. When a plot of land became a city, we occupied it. Now that city is a prisoner of its benevolence. Whose home shall a city be? Whose dream was it and who lives the nightmare?

  • Dhaka the lost child of random, feverish growth—who shall redeem you?

  • Because of congestion and insufficient sunlight few houses in Dhaka have trees, gardens or flowerpots. At the same time, destruction of original vegetation and unplanned building has resulted in the expansion of agriculture onto less-productive lands, creating erosion and runoff, among other by-products and unchecked weed growth. It’s becoming a dead city.

  • Like any megacity Dhaka has a distinctive spatial form, a complex unit of production and a single labor market. The urban system designed a hundred years ago for less than a million is blatantly unworkable for a population that has exceeded 10 million and is being tested for 15 million.

  • Whose home shall a city be? Whose dream was it and who lives the nightmare?

  • When a plot of rural land became an urban city, we occupied it. Now that city is a prisoner of its benevolence.

  • Once upon a time there was a blue River that flowed into the city, but now it is going to lose its natural beauty. Uncontrolled and desperate urbanization is now destroying the ecosystem of the city.

  • If a city is made of dreams and desires then a megacity is made of dreams, desires and fears. Fear that there will be no space for our footprints.

  • The green matrix is lost. The housing boom has eroded parks and open spaces. Houses often share walls. Dhaka is wrestling urban violence, industrialization and other exigencies.

  • The hungry bellies of villages are voting with their feet, thronging to Dhaka, half a million a year. The restless come, the city burst in tandem. Everyday thousand of rural people come to Dhaka city for survive. Dhaka is the keeper of strong survivors, restless migrants and climate refugees.

  • Soot and debris. Trash and scrap: is your story. Only in memories you shall be green. Land is no longer for sale. My piece of sky and water is left.

  • Long time ago there was a city. Now they say we have megacities, like some giant kicking up a cacophonous racket. Dhaka the lost child of random, feverish growth—who shall redeem you? Together we swallow the keeper, together we write a poem about the death of a city.

  • Who once owned your keys? Who let us in? Who forgot to ask us to love you as our kin?

  • Who is the maggot? Who is the beast? Why is no one pausing to stop this decay?

  • In Bangladesh, lots of children are sleep in the urban area. It would be bus terminal, train station, footpath, riverbank and many other places like floating. More than 20,000 children have to stay in open sky. Poverty, natural disasters, river erosion, flood, famine and rising water level have an effect on most of the children, and they become homeless.


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