Discussing Chittagong’s urban future with Prof. Hoque
Preyanka Chowdhury, Chittagong Community Manager
Chittagong, 7 June 2016
Prof. Engr. M.Mozammel Hoque is a respected senior civil engineer with extensive experience of working with Chittagong Development Authority (CDA), the primary planning wing of the government. He is the former vice-chancellor and dean of Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology and currently a consultant to both government and private sectors for civil-engineering and project feasibility studies. In this interview, he discusses how politics can be adopted as a mean to exploit resources and further trigger corruption. However, he exhibits optimism towards the development of Chittagong, a primary commercial hub of Bangladesh and how it can be accomplished through various measures.
What are the biggest challenges that Chittagong faces in terms of equitability?
Well, there exists a stark class difference, where the majority of the population is composed of the impoverished, working class. Every year, urban migration continues with the keenness of a better standard of living. But once in the urban territory, the rural migrants are usually met with disappointment and discrimination. They are unable to avail services like banking, education, health facilities and many more. Clusters of slums emerge in the city to accommodate these unskilled, low paid or unemployed people. Furthermore, the inability of the government to implement efficient traffic management systems and proper means of commuting creates routinely perilous situations all over Chittagong. Finally, development is challenged by the permanence of politicians, lacking in sincerity and ethics, a perfect portrayal of corruption.
Can you tell us about the city’s master plan? Does it address any of these issues? Are there any key policies in place or in progress that could address issues such as slums and urban poverty?
The CDA has recently articulated a new flexible master plan for the port city for the next 20 years, aiming to transmute it into a contemporary, planned and developed city. Issues like educational institutes, slum planning, mitigating waterlogging, preserving hills, keeping playgrounds, creating recreational centers and many more will be addressed. The provision of flexibility empowers the politicians, facilitating further exploitation of the allocated resources.
How do international initiatives for Sustainable Development Goals help a city like Chittagong in planning? Or do they?
We have foreign aid at our disposal but exploitation within the governing body immobilizes the effective application of such policies. An alarmingly insignificant portion of the actual aid is allocated and invested in developmental ventures.
Where do you hope to see the city in the next 20 years? What needs to happen to get there?
I hope in 20 years we see a well-planned transport system that would enable the working people to commute effortlessly to and from the city. Currently we see no cooperation between the various government departments responsible for the city’s development. I hope this will change in 20 years’ time and we are able to achieve effective and sustainable goals for urban development. And finally, the annihilation of besmirched politicians is a precondition for ensuring an equitable city.
Photo: Navid Nooren