Urban Growth Creates Problems

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Bangladesh e-Journal of Sociology. Volume 5 Number 1. January 2008.

Rapid Urban Growth and Poverty in Dhaka City
Shahadat Hossain•

The paper aims to explore the nature of urban growth and poverty in Dhaka City, Bangladesh. It has highlighted the city of Dhaka as the urbanisation of the whole country is interlinked with the intense development of the city. The paper is based on data collected through surveys of population censuses and relevant studies. It reveals that the historical process of urban development of Dhaka City presents various trends based on its political development. The rapid urbanisation of the city since its emergence as the capital of an independent state is due mainly to massive migration of rural population. The paper also reveals that significant portions of the city dwellers are settled mostly in slums and squatter settlements and are living below the poverty lines as the rapid urban growth of the city is not commensurate with its overall development. The paper, however, argues that the experience of poverty in the city of Dhaka follows the pattern of urbanisation without development, the opposite of the expectations and aspirations of the poor there.

1. Introduction The paper deals with the urban challenges in Bangladesh focusing on rapid urban growth and poverty in the megacity of Dhaka.1 It starts with a general profile of the city highlighting its geography and population characteristics. It is important to note that the urbanisation of Bangladesh is interlinked with the intense development of Dhaka City which has developed as a politico-administrative centre, having gained and then lost its position through the political development of the country. Due to the concentration of both domestic and foreign investment Dhaka City has experienced massive migration from the rural population of Bangladesh in recent decades but a critical downside to this has been the dramatic rise in poverty. In light of this, the paper deals with the trend of poverty in Dhaka City. In addition, the state of Dhaka’s infrastructure is inadequate and unable to keep up with growing urban pressures. Significant portions of the city’s population are living in slums and squatter settlements and are experiencing extremely low living standards, low productivity and unemployment. The slum population mostly live below the poverty line in terms of both calorie intake and the cost of basic needs. Moreover, despite having lived in the city for a long period of time the urban poor have limited access to the economic and social systems of the city.

Department of Sociology, University of Dhaka. Email: Shahadat72@yahoo.com


The term ‘megacity’ is frequently used as a synonym for words such as super-city, giant city, conurbation, and megalopolis. There has been little agreement about the size of the megacity. Megacities are defined as cities that were expected to have at least ten million inhabitants by the year 2000. Please see World Bank’s Urban Policy and Economic Development: An Agenda for the 1990s (Washington: World Bank, 1993).

Bangladesh e-Journal of Sociology. Volume 5 Number 1. January 2008.


2. A brief profile of Dhaka City Dhaka City is centrally located in Bangladesh, in the southern part of the district of Dhaka. It is situated between latitudes 24º40´ N to 24º54´ N and longitudes 90º20´ E to 90º30´ E and defined by the Buriganga river in the south; the Balu and the Shitalakhya rivers in the east; Tongi Khal in the north and the Turag river in the west. The city has developed on the higher elevated Pleistocene terrace land or Order Alluvium of the central part of Bangladesh, otherwise referred

to as the Madhupur-Bhawal Garh Region. In addition, a substantial portion of the adjoining lowlying areas have recently been brought under the structured zones of the city due to the accelerated rate of the urban growth in Dhaka.2 According to the adjusted population of the 2001 Census...
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