Environmental area conservation through urban planning: case study in Dhaka

Published date19 September 2019
Date19 September 2019
AuthorKasphia Nahrin
Subject MatterBuilding & construction law,Real estate & property,Building & construction
Environmental area conservation
through urban planning: case
study in Dhaka
Kasphia Nahrin
Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Jahangirnagar University,
Savar, Bangladesh
Purpose There are some environmentally critical areas (ECAs) in cities such as f‌lood f‌low areas,
agricultural land, canals, rivers, water bodies, forests and hills that need to be conserved from land
transformation. The purposeof this paper is to review the compliance,challenges and signif‌icance of urban
planning, and to develop a contextualframework of urban planning for environmental area conservation to
improve theurban environment in case study city Dhaka,the capital of Bangladesh.
Design/methodology/approach This research is based on a qualitative thematic analysis of the
availablerelevant literature.
Findings This research identif‌ied non-compliance of the contemporary urban plans such as
indiscriminate land conversion activities in the ECAs. Conf‌licting interests between the urban plans
concerning protection of the conservationareas and business interests of the community people and the real
estate development companies are identif‌ied as the major challenges. Dhaka faces several environmental
problems such as loss of biodiversity and ecosystem, waterlogging, f‌looding, pollution, reduction of
vegetation,groundwater depletion, temperature increaseand a reduction in agriculture and f‌ishingbecause of
land conversionin the ECAs.
Practical implications Urban planning with effective conservation area management, conf‌lict
resolution through communication and participation, creation of economic opportunity to generate income
from the ECAs and assessment of the conservationstrategies and interventions might ensure environmental
conservationin Dhaka.
Originality/value The conceptual framework of urban planning for environmental conservation is
innovativeas this could be a basis for other cities in Bangladesh and in otherdeveloping countries.
Keywords Conservation, Land conversion, Urban planning, Ecology, Community awareness,
Conservation area, TDR
Paper type Research paper
Background of the research
Urban growth has impacted eco-regions, rare species and protected areas that are localised
but cumulatively signif‌icant (Mcdonald et al.,2008). A rapid process of urban growth is
taking place in developing cities (Cohen, 2006). Urbanisation process can affect the
environment of a city in various ways, which creates a replacement of natural cover with
impervious surfaces and directly affectshabitat, ecosystems, endangered species and water
quality through land consumption(US EPA, 2001). There are some environmentally critical
areas (ECAs[1]) or environmentallysensitive areas (ESAs) in cities such as agriculturalland,
canals, rivers, water bodies, forests and hills, which are important for conservation as they
help maintain the ecological balance and protect biodiversity. These ECAs are designated
and special areas that need to be protected from conversion. Land use transformation of
these environmentally valuablelands (e.g. arable land, forest, natural drainage channels) for
through urban
Received12 November 2018
Revised9 March 2019
23June 2019
Accepted25 July 2019
Journalof Property, Planning and
Vol.12 No. 1, 2020
pp. 55-71
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JPPEL-11-2018-0033
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
developing urban settlements has led to the demolition of the natural environment.
UN-Habitat (2008, p. xiv) states cities that are not properly planned or managed can be a
burden on natural resources and can easilythreaten the quality of the air and water, thereby
negatively impactingthe natural and living environment.
Urban planning has the potential to protect some environmental/special areas in a city
and to conserve the environment (Freire,2006;Marshall, 2005). Appropriate implementation
of the special areasprotectionpolicy through urban planning can improve the environment.
Therefore, it is requiredto integrate the environmental conservation of the ESAs with urban
planning. However, there is limited research on a contextual outline of integrating
environmental conservation with urban planning in the context of developing countries.
This research aims to review the compliance, challenges and signif‌icanceof urban planning
for land conservation at the ECAs in developing cities. Furthermore, this study develops a
contextual framework of urban planning that is aimed at achieving environmental
conservation objectives to improve the urban environment. This research is based on case
study city Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.
Dhaka, a South Asian megacity, is experiencing very high urban growth. Unplanned
growth is very widespread in the city andis creating several environmentalproblems in the
city. The contemporary urban plans for Dhaka demarcate the ESAs and suggest for
conservation. This research is signif‌icant because it analyses the potentialsof conservation
of the ECAs for urban environmental improvements and explores the compliance and
challenges to integrate environmental area conservation with urban planning in Dhaka.
Moreover, it identif‌ies some policies and strategies to overcome the challenges for
conserving the designated environmentalareas within Dhaka, though it is beyond the scope
of this study to assess the effectiveness of the policies and strategies. The conceptual
framework of urban planning can be a basis of environmentalconservation at other cities in
Bangladesh and other developing countries. This research adopts a qualitative approach
and involves data collection from available relevant literature. It uses a thematic analysis
technique for data analysisand to develop research f‌indings.
Concepts of environmental conservation and urban planning
This section reviews concepts about environmental effects because of conversion of the
ECAs for other uses, inf‌luences of urbanplanning for protecting these areas and signif‌icant
agenda about conservationof the ECAs.
Transformation of the environmentally critical areas and the resulting environmental ef‌fects
Urbanisation process can affect the environmental sustainability of a city in various ways.
Land use transformation of environmentally valuable land specially by violating land-use
planning led to the destruction of the natural environment (Alam and Ahmad, 2010;Ansari,
2008; CUS, 2006; Napier, 2002;Torreset al., 2007;UN-Habitat, 2009):
As cities grow, they transform natural landscapes both within and around them. The expansion
of cities means that land surfaces are reshaped; valleys and swamps f‌illed; large volumes of clay,
sand, gravel, and crushed rock extracted and moved; and water sources tappedand rivers and
streams chanelled. In the absence of ef‌fective land-use management, this has serious ecological
impacts such as the loss of agricultural land and of sites with valuable ecological functions
(Douglas, 1983 cited in Satterthwaite, 2003 p. 35).
Transformation of the natural areas affects habitat, ecosystems and endangered species in
the immediate and surrounding environment. Generally, most of the rainwater is absorbed
into the ground through the topsoil and slowly migrates through the soil to the nearest

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