The Hatirjheel area development project restores wetland habitats and takes into account the reemergence of Dhaka's water edge elements. One of the biggest projects in Dhaka, it links the area from Banasree in the north to the Sonargaon Hotel in the south.
Because Tejgaon, Gulshan, Badda, Rampura, Banasree, Niketon, and Moghbazar are all located in close proximity to one another, it was much simpler for residents to travel between each of these areas. The wetlands’ name, Hatirjheel, comes from the fact that the elephants of Dhaka’s Pilkhana used to bathe there. The Elephant Road and Hatirpool were used to transport the elephants to the marshes in Hatirjheel, which is, now a recreational site, easing traffic congestion for the citizens.
Before 2009, the locals in the region had a number of issues prior to the Hatirjheel development project. The whole area of Hatirjheel was a slum before the development project, with unhealthy living conditions. Traffic congestion was one of the major problems in the Rampura, Mahanagar,Modhubag, Begunbari, Kunipara, etc. areas. The waste of Karwan Bazar, Panthapath, Dhanmondi, Kalabagan, Kathalbagan, and Banglamotor was dumped into Hatirjheel, causing extreme environmental pollution and a loss of biodiversity. In addition, no recreational development was present for the citizens in the area.
Hatirjheel Development Project
The project was first authorized in October 2007. Just within 2 months, the building process started in December, and Sheikh Hasina officially launched the project on January 2, 2013. The National Water Policy, National Water Management Plan, National Water Body Protection, and Preservation of Open Space and Playground Act of 2000 were all factors in the project’s implementation. RAJUK (Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha) was in charge of the major implementation of the project. However, Rajuk, assisted by the Local Government and Engineering Department (LGED), Dhaka Wasa, and the Special Work Organization (16 Engineer Construction Battalion) of the Bangladesh Army, have implemented the project.
The nation’s Tk 1,900 crore ($235 million at today’s exchange rate) investment in a 300-acre lake is evidence of Dhaka’s commitment to keeping up with an evolving modernity. Here, urbanity develops through a contemporary interpretation of our evolutionary relationship with water. In addition to the urban commute, the lake is linked to a drainage system and roads in other regions.
The design of Hatirjheel includes multiple flyovers, footbridges, 4 main and 4 minor bridges, 8.80 kilometers of walkways, and 9.80 kilometers of promenade. Renting out commercial premises and other services brings in a major amount of money for the project, only Tk 10 crore. The Hatirjheel project has enhanced aquatic biodiversity and stormwater management in Dhaka. This enhancement has been made possible by Begunbari Khal and the restored jheel (wetland). The initiative, which focuses on wetland restoration, looks into the possibilities of bringing back water edge features in the city of Dhaka. The project restored wetland and reintroduced water-edge elements into the city. The rivers or derelict areas turned green. In addition, the areas of Gulshan and Banani were turned into areas under green-blue infrastructure.
Impacts of Hatirjheel Project
Ease of Transportation and Increased Connectivity: To improve connections between eastern and western Dhaka, the project was created. The project built a link between the newly established, heavily populated south of the city and the modern, well-organized north. The ease of transportation is contributing to urban management and the attraction of business and investment channels. This project, which covers 311 acres, aims to improve connections between important metropolitan corridors and serves as a retention pond to lessen the flash flood risk in the region.
Water Taxi Service: The water taxi service operates in Hatirjheel Area with a 20-year contract given to Wahid Construction Company. There are numerous routes available for the service, including ones that go from Gulshan Lake to Baridhara and from Gulshan Police Plaza to Rampura Bridge. The fare is quite reasonable as well. For example, on the journey from Gulshan Police Plaza to Rampura Bridge, the cost of the service is only around Tk 15 to Tk 50. The public has responded favorably to the service, and demand for it is greater than supply.
Storm-Water Management: Begunbari Khal was in disrepair and was not performing its drainage role well prior to the Hatirjheel project. The region was flooded, and the water was of low quality. Additionally, the wetland was incapable of sustaining aquatic biodiversity. The Hatirjheel project aims to rebuild the wetland and bring back Dhaka’s water-edge features. The initiative was effective in increasing aquatic biodiversity and stormwater management in Dhaka.
Blue Infrastructure: The Hatirjheel project has helped Bangladesh’s capital city of Dhaka improve its blue infrastructure. The network of water bodies, such as rivers, lakes, and wetlands, that help metropolitan areas socially and ecologically is referred to as “blue infrastructure.” The area’s aquatic biodiversity has increased thanks to the restored marsh. Both constructed infrastructure and nature-based solutions (NbS) are used in the project. In order to effectively manage stormwater in Dhaka and increase aquatic biodiversity, the project looked at the feasibility of returning water edge components to the city. Additionally, “The Grand Canal,” a blue network that would help the city’s environmental issues, has been suggested as part of the project.
Wetland Restoration Project: A wetland restoration project called the Hatirjheel area development project looks at the possibilities of returning water edge components to the city of Dhaka. Wetlands serve as water filters by eliminating impurities and extra nutrients. Water quality may be improved by restoring wetlands, making it safer for people and aquatic life. Many different types of plants and animals may be found in wetlands. Restoring wetlands can help preserve biodiversity and safeguard threatened species. Wetlands have a significant capacity to store carbon, which helps to lessen the consequences of climate change. Restoring wetlands can decrease the rate of climate change and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Flood control and Drainage Infrastructure: The main stormwater retention basin in the city is called Hatirjheel, and it is hydraulically connected to the lakes of Dhanmondi, Gulshan, and Banani. The initiative has made stormwater management easier, which has eliminated the area’s water logging issue. In order to store surplus rainwater and prevent urban floods in large cities like Dhaka, detention basins are crucial. Additionally, the research evaluated how land use and climate change might affect the Hatirjheel-Begunbari Khal stormwater drainage system’s flow. The rehabilitated marsh has aided in flood management and damage prevention for neighboring areas. Overall, the Hatirjheel project made a substantial contribution to Dhaka’s flood prevention efforts and helped shield the city from the damaging impacts of floods.
Integrated Development: In the urban design and architecture category of the 2021 London Design Awards, the integrated development of the Hatirjheel and Begunbari regions took home the bronze medal. To sum up, the Hatirjheel and Begunbari districts’ integrated development is a great illustration of how wetland restoration initiatives may be incorporated with urban planning and architecture to promote the local community’s social, ecological, and economic well-being.
Recreational Activities for Visitors
Healthy Activities: Visitors can enjoy walking along the 8.80 kilometers of footpaths and 9.80 kilometers of walkways that surround the lake. They can also rent bicycles and cycle around the lake. Activities like jogging or running at any time are possible in this area.
Boating: The lake government has 20 pedal boats (2 seater and 4 seater) for leisurely trips. Cycling for thirty minutes on the picturesque lake is a well-liked pastime for guests. They are quick and cost-effective, while one can enjoy the scenic beauty of Hatirjheel’s dazzling lights at night and garnished greenery and architecture at daytime.
Fishing: Visitors can enjoy fishing with their own equipment or rent it from local vendors. However, they are required to get permission from the lake authority to maintain aquatic biodiversity in the lake. Several fish, like catfish, tilapia, carp, etc., are in the lake.
Musical Fountain: The tridimensional structure of the fountain includes a time-controlled sound wave and musical tracks. A water dance performance is presented by the fountain to music and lighting. The 393.7-foot (120-meter) long waterfront can accommodate a large number of people.
Picnic Spot and Restaurants: The area turned into a picnic spot, accommodating more than 2000 visitors at a time. Restaurants for coffee, momos, burgers, etc. are available on the spot. Soon, more restaurants will be built at 22 spots and leased out to intending customers. The spot has 13 viewing decks, which are used for recreational purposes.
Children’s Park: The Hatirjheel Children’s Park is an attraction for children where the entry fee is only 30 Tk. It offers swings, slides, and all other play equipment.
Theatre and Laser Show: The Hatirjheel Theatre can accommodate around 2500 people at a glance, making sure people enjoy occasional programs. The laser shows with ticketing systems seem to be visible on special days such as Padma Bridge inauguration day.
Inclination with SDG Goals
SDG goal 6 focuses on water management: Flood protection, stormwater and rainfall management and storage, and improvements to water quality, which are successfully done in terms of the Hatirjheel Project. On the other hand, SDG goal 13 is concerned with climate action for adaptation, resilience, and mitigation, and through the green environment in urban infrastructure, Hatirjheel made sure that the climate is saved in a healthy condition without the slums and wastes of the Dhaka metropolitan area. Last but not least, SDG goals 14 and 15 about life under water and biodiversity conservation have been kept in mind, for which the water is clean in the Hatirjheel area for the other species.
Maintenance: There have been worries about the project’s lack of upkeep, which is necessary for the Hatirjheel project to remain viable. Therefore, in order to maintain the project’s viability, the authorities should concentrate on routine maintenance of the social and physical environment.
Safety Concerns: Hatirjheel seems to be one of the hotspots for hijacking. Around 5-7 people from the Sindated criminal group conduct hijackings after sunset. The thugs mostly target couples and walk past them to rob them. Hence, special security has to be ensured to manage these robbers and find the groups behind the crimes.
Waste Management: Since a lot of people visit Hatirjheel every year, they throw daily waste into the area, which hampers the biodiversity and spoils the place, making it vulnerable to producing health hazards like Dengue due to the production of Aides.
Traffic Congestion: The existing plan shows that the Dhaka Elevated Expressway would worsen the area’s traffic congestion and harm Hatirjheel’s attractiveness. Hence, to resolve the problem, greater connectivity channels are necessary. The overload with car parking has to be taken under strict measures.
About the Author
A R Tahseen Jahan is a Research Associate at The Confluence and a student of Development Studies at the University of Dhaka. She is also serving as an Editor at Dhaka University Law and Politics Review.