What do I like about Dhaka? That’s a difficult question to answer. I have lived in Bangladesh’s capital for 15 years, but originally I come from the country’s third largest city, Khulna. I don’t have many positive things to say about life in a megacity.
Including its metropolitan area, Dhaka is home to some 21 million people. Wherever you look, all you see is people, people and more people. One obvious effect of this overpopulation is of course the traffic. And this has serious consequences: the air pollution level of Dhaka is categorised as unhealthy. According to the Air Quality Index, this means that everyone may begin to experience health effects and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid prolonged outdoor exertion.
The heavy monsoons in this part of the world result in the city getting flooded several times a year. Another cause for concern? The increasing number of earthquakes hitting Dhaka. The houses are built so close together that there are very few opportunities to find shelter during a quake. What is more, 20 percent of the area of the world’s most densely populated country is less than a metre above sea level. Sea levels are rising verifiably every year, and are already around eight centimetres higher than they were in 1993. If this trend continues, my home city of Khulna will one day be under water.
I can think of one positive aspect of the city I live in, however. We have enormous supermarkets here. We can buy high quality garments very cheaply, because they are made in Bangladesh. In the past, we had to fly to neighbouring countries for many products, but now most of them are also available in Bangladesh. Dhaka’s education system has also improved. Until a few years ago, residents of the city had to send their children abroad to give them a good education. I’m glad that my children will be able to remain close to me and go to school in Dhaka. For me, this is a glimmer of hope in a city that is feeling the impact of the climate crisis head-on.