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IB GEOGRAPHY PAPER 2 URBAN ENVIRONMENTS CASE STUDY - ISF

DHAKA CASE STUDY; URBAN ENVIRONMENTS


Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh. Located on the Buriganga River in the heart of the
Bengal delta, Dhaka has an estimated population of more than 15 million people, making it
the largest city in Bangladesh and one of the largest cities in the world. Dhaka is one of the
major cities of South Asia. It is known as the City of Mosques, and with 400,000 cyclerickshaws running on its streets every day, the city is described as the Rickshaw Capital of
the World. Dhaka is also one of the world's most densely populated cities.
In recent decades, Dhaka has been experiencing an influx of people from across the nation,
making it one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the world. The city has been
attracting greater volumes of foreign investment and trade; and has been witnessing the
modernization of transport and communications, with the Dhaka Metro and the Dhaka
Elevated Expressway under construction. However, the city continues to face substantial
challenges of congestion, poverty, overpopulation and pollution.

Climate and Water quality


Dhaka experiences a hot, wet, and humid tropical climate. Under the Kppen climate
classification, Dhaka has a tropical savanna climate. The city has a distinct monsoonal
season, with an annual average temperature of 25 C (77 F) and monthly means varying
between 18 C (64 F) in January and 32 C (90 F) in May. Approximately 87% of the
annual average rainfall of 2,123 millimeters (83.6 inches) occurs between May and October.
Increasing air and water pollution emanating from traffic congestion and industrial waste are
serious problems affecting public health and the quality of life in the city. Water bodies and
wetlands around Dhaka are facing destruction as these are being filled up to construct multistoried buildings and other real estate developments. Coupled with pollution, such erosion of
natural habitats threatens to destroy much of the regional biodiversity:
Dhaka has a water-borne sewage system, but this serves only 22% of the population while
another 30% are served with septic tanks. Only two-thirds of households in Dhaka are served
by the city water supply system. More than 9.7 million tons of solid wastes are produced in
Dhaka city each year. While private and government efforts have succeeded in collecting
refuse city-wide and using it as manure, most solid wastes are often dumped untreated in
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IB GEOGRAPHY PAPER 2 URBAN ENVIRONMENTS CASE STUDY - ISF

nearby low-lying areas and water bodies. The utility in charge of water and sanitation in
Dhaka, DWASA, addresses these challenges with a number of measures. It says that in 2011
it achieved a continuous water supply 24 hours per day 7 days a week, an increase in
revenues so that operating costs are more than covered, and a reduction of water losses from
53% in 2003 to 29% in 2010. For these achievements DWASA, got a "Performer of the Year
Award" at the Global Water Summit 2011 in Berlin. In the future DWASA plans massive
investment to replace dwindling groundwater resources with treated surface water from less
polluted rivers located up to 160 km from the city.] In 2011 Bangladesh's capital development
authority, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK), made rainwater harvesting for new
houses mandatory in an effort to address water scarcity and reduce flooding.
Disparities
Dhaka is the commercial heart of Bangladesh. The city has a growing middle class
population, driving the market for modern consumer and luxury goods. The city has
historically attracted a large number of migrant workers. Hawkers, peddlers, small shops,
rickshaw transport, roadside vendors and stalls employ a large segment of the population
rickshaw-drivers alone number as many as 400,000. Half the workforce is employed in
household and unorganised labour, while about 800,000 work in the textile industry. Even so,
unemployment remains high at 19%. As of 2008, Dhaka's Gross Municipal Product (GMP) is
registered at $85 billion. With an annual growth rate of 6.2%, the GMP is projected to rise to
$215 billion by 2025. The annual per capita income of Dhaka is estimated at $1,350(USD),
with 34% of households living below the poverty line, including a large segment of the
population coming from rural areas in search of employment, with most surviving on less
than $5 a day.
Population and migration
The population of Dhaka (areas under the jurisdiction of the Dhaka city corporation) stands at
approximately 7.0 million. The city, in combination with localities forming the wider
metropolitan area, is home to over 15 million as of 2013. The population is growing by an
estimated 4.2% per year, one of the highest rates amongst Asian cities. The continuing
growth reflects ongoing migration from rural areas to the Dhaka urban region, which
accounted for 60% of the city's growth in the 1960s and 1970s. More recently, the city's
population has also grown with the expansion of city boundaries, a process that added more
than a million people to the city in the 1980s. According to Far Eastern Economic Review,
Dhaka will become a home of 25 million people by the year 2025.
Education
The literacy rate in Dhaka is also increasing fairly quickly. It was estimated at 62.3% in 2001.
The literacy rate had gone up to 72.7% by 2010 which is significantly higher than the
national average of 56.5%.
Dhaka has the largest number of schools, colleges and universities of any Bangladeshi city.
The education system is divided into 5 levels: Primary (from grades 1 to 5), Junior (from
grades 6 to 8), Secondary (from grades 9 to 10), Higher Secondary (from grades 11 to 12)
and tertiary. There are 52 universities in Dhaka.

IB GEOGRAPHY PAPER 2 URBAN ENVIRONMENTS CASE STUDY - ISF

Dhaka: fastest growing megacity in


the world
A five-part, multimedia series on the coming dystopia that is urbanization.

DHAKA, Bangladesh The future is here, and it smells like burning trash.
As the evening call to prayer echoes across Dhakas teeming slums, a bluish haze rises in the
murky air. Cooking happens mostly on open fires in the shantytowns of the Bangladeshi
capital, the flames kindled with paper, scavenged lumber and bits of plastic junk.
On a recent evening in a broken labyrinth of shacks called the Korail slum, a wiry young
mother in a red sari stooped to light the clay hearth outside her familys one-room home.
Mina, 24, touched her match to a castoff vinyl folder, three-hole-punched for documents
shell never read.
I dont like to live in Dhaka, she said, fanning the smoking plastic, then laying splintered
bamboo on top. But we have a dream to buy a piece of land, some land back in our village.
Mina, who uses only one name, followed her husband here in 2009 joining the nearly halfmillion migrants who pour into Dhaka each year. Its not clear how soon, if ever, theyll leave.
Minas husband saves only a few dollars each month from his job selling fish. Mina,
meanwhile, cares for their two children and, like millions of other women here, fires up the
familys nightly meal.
The smoke from these fires signals not a return to a prior age but, rather, the dawn of
something new. Depending on how one measures, the planet now boasts 20 or so megacities
urban agglomerations where the United Nations estimates the population has reached 10
million or more. The worlds rapid urbanization is a reality fraught with both peril and hope.
The peril is obvious. Overcrowding, pollution, poverty, impossible demands for energy and
water all result in an overwhelming sense these megacities will simply collapse. But the hope,
while less obvious, needs more attention. The potential efficiencies of urban living, the access
to health care and jobs, along with plummeting urban birth rates have all convinced some
environmental theorists the migration to cities may in fact save the planet. But only, these
experts hasten to add, if this shift is well managed.
Among these megacities, The World Bank says Dhaka, with its current population of 15
million people, bears the distinction of being the fastest-growing in the world. Between 1990
and 2005, the city doubled in size from 6 to 12 million. By 2025, the U.N. predicts Dhaka
will be home to more than 20 million people larger than Mexico City, Beijing or Shanghai.
Mass migration, booming populations and globalized trade are swelling cities worldwide, but
these forces are perhaps more powerfully concentrated in Dhaka than anywhere on earth
offering a unique window on an urban planet soon to come.
You are seeing the early future of the world, which is not a very pleasant thought, said Atiq
Rahman, a Dhaka climate and migration researcher who heads the Bangladesh Centre for
Advanced Studies. Explosive growth in cities like Dhaka, he said, has created a cluster of
demographic chaos.

IB GEOGRAPHY PAPER 2 URBAN ENVIRONMENTS CASE STUDY - ISF


The earths countryside is emptying out, more quickly all the time. It took about 10,000
years for the human population to become 3 percent urban a period extending roughly
from the dawn of human settlement until 1800. A century later, Earth was still just 14
percent urban. But in 2007, the United Nations announced wed crossed a monumental
threshold. For the first time, more than 50 percent of the world lived in cities rather than
rural villages and farms. By 2030, some projections say more than 80 percent of humanity
will be urban, with many inhabiting the slum-choked cities of the developing world.
The shift is a watershed in human history, comparable to the Neolithic or Industrial
revolutions, urban theorist Mike Davis wrote in his book Planet of Slums.
In the simplest sense, this transformation has a dual cause: Masses of migrants are
abandoning the countryside, and they keep having babies after coming to town. By some
accounts, fertility is a larger slice of the pie.
Its roughly a 40/60 split, said Deborah Balk, an urbanization specialist with the CUNY
Institute for Demographic Research in New York City. We have more large concentrations
of people than weve ever had before. That is new. And those concentrations themselves, they
have momentum.

Bangladesh with a population of more than 120 million people is the world's
most crowded country, with a density of 850 persons per square kilometre.
Situated on an alluvial floodplain, where 75% of the nation live at less than 10 metres
above sea level, it is subject to frequent and disastrous flooding during the monsoon
season. Lack of available farmland has encouraged an exodus from the countryside
to the cities, every year 5% of the rural population leave for a better life - almost 5
million people. Dhaka is the destination for many of
them.
Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, has a
population of 9 million people. With a distinct Asian
urban morphology, squatter dwellings called
bustees are found on open spaces within Dhaka
and dotted around the colonial 'core', now the
Central Business District (CBD). The influx of
considerable numbers of people has brought
Slums close to Dhaka city centre
numerous problems with which the city is struggling.
(click for a larger image)
Schemes involving the building up of local
(c) Fred Hoogervorst/Panos Pictures
community networks have proved successful in
initiating change and beginning to bring about a better lifestyle for squatter dwellers.
Built of wood and corrugated iron, shanty houses are packed closely together
with limited access to running water, sanitation and electricity.
70% of the city's slum dwellers do not have access to safe drinking water. In one
area, local leaders identified and organised every five households to form a group;
and 20 - 30 groups formed one community, known as a samity, that would become
the location of a water point. Community building exercises enabled the formation of
a group which drew up a plan covering costs of building, managing and maintaining
the water point. Given a loan from a national NGO, discussions with the Dhaka
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IB GEOGRAPHY PAPER 2 URBAN ENVIRONMENTS CASE STUDY - ISF

Water Supply and Sewerage Authority and the Dhaka City Corporation cleared the
way to provide a road, construct the water point and lay pipes. The samity charged
households to ensure that there was money to repay the loan and employ part-time
caretakers to collect the water rates and maintain the water point.
Community development work began with education, recognising that future
economic progress is dependent upon raising the low status of women. Many
migrants to Dhaka are lured by the possibility of more available schooling - for boys.
City authorities are encouraging families to send girls also, until recently seen as a
waste of time. Within community building programmes, the importance of education
for girls and women is stressed as a way of gradually improving the standard of living
of the family. At present, families rely heavily on the income they receive from their
children and many in the bustees do not receive any formal education at all. Rather
than ban all children from paid employment, agencies are trying to improve
conditions for them in the workplace. The Dhaka Sahnsamia Mission has set up
schools in the Dhaka shantytowns that these children can attend for about three
hours every morning before going on to work.
Shantytown residents are encouraged to set up their
own small businesses, such as owning a rickshaw,
with self-help credit schemes. One such, the
Grameen Bank, lends money only to poor or
landless people at a very low rate of interest.
Organised into groups of five, the people support
each other in repaying their loans. Almost 94% of its
borrowers are women. Another savings scheme,
(shomiti) has set up small groups (shomitis) of
twenty people who are encouraged to save money,
and are given loans, for example, to buy materials,
pay for houses on their own piece of land, or pay
teachers' wages in the newly set up schools.

Crushing bricks for re-use is physically


demanding and poorly paid
(click for a larger image)

The Future
Despite the difficulties of living on a frequently flooded river delta, the residents of Dhaka are
endeavouring to improve to their way of life through community involvement and hard work
to bring about sustainable development. Such schemes have been successful and point to
the way ahead for other areas. Much more investment is required, especially in the area of
family health education and hygiene if progress is to continue.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Essay examples:
Sustainable strategies in cities can only succeed when cities have zero
population growth. Using examples, discuss this statement. [10]
Examine reasons why cities in some parts of the world have higher rates of
population growth than others. [10 marks]
Discuss the challenges facing one or more cities experiencing rapid growth. [10]