A dog strolls beside the River Buriganga. Indiscriminate discharge of liquid waste by tannery factories along its banks has polluted the river that supplies millions of the city's inhabitants.
Male and female labourers carrying basket loads of coal from barges to the shore.
Labourers at a small garments factory bathe in a communal washroom at the end of their working day.
People in an alleyway in the Mirpur slum near the Buriganga River.
A child sleeping on a flower patterned mattress is reflected in a small mirror.
Children playing in the yard of a 300 hundred year old house near the Buriganga River.
Female labourers crush coal, to be used in brick firing kilns, at a brick making factory.
Two women eat a meal in their house near the Buriganga River.
Men bathe in the Buriganga River. The waterway has become a dump for waste with many nearby tanneries pumping toxic effluents directly into the river.
A woman, walking among water hyacinths growing in the River Buriganga, collects water in a battered aluminium vessel. Indiscriminate discharge of liquid waste by tannery factories along its banks has polluted the river that supplies millions of the city's inhabitants.
Families washing dishes in waters connected to Buriganga River. The waterway has become a dump for waste with many nearby tanneries pumping toxic effluents directly into the river.
A young girl and her baby brother inside their 300 hundred year old house near the Buriganga River.
Boatmen, moured on the banks of the River Buriganga, wait for passengers.
A man and a woman selling cabbages and greens on the banks of the Buriganga River.
A bus full of people makes its way along a street in the Old Dhaka (Puran Dhaka).
Dhaka - dream or nightmare?
Dhaka is the fastest growing megacity in the world and one of the poorest. It is the keeper of strong survivors, restless migrants and climate refugees. If a city is made of dreams and desires then a megacity is made of dreams, desires and fears. Dhaka is a child of random, feverish urbanism. For some, this urban giant is like a daydream, for many it is a nightmare. Like any megacity Dhaka has a distinctive spatial form, a complex unit of production and a single labour market. The urban system designed a hundred years ago for less than a million is blatantly unworkable for a population that has exceeded 10 million and is being tested for 15 million.
A mosaic of environmental issues, which are similar to the problems other megacities are facing, badgers Dhaka. For instance, the Buriganga river, once a lifeline of Dhaka, is now a biologically dead river. All of Dhaka’s waterways - the Buriganga, Shitalakhya, Turag and Balu rivers - are now cesspits, the water a dark, stinking mess. Ecologically fragile Dhaka is bursting at the seams, suffering from a catalogue of environmental ills. The rate of urban development rate is limping, with almost 50 % of the megacity’s population living in slums.
The polarisation between the rich and the poor is widening and squatters are swamping Dhaka. Half of Dhaka’s population lives in ramshackle one or two-room houses made of crude brick, straw, recycled plastic, cement blocks and scrap wood. They end up in areas directly adjacent to garbage dumps, toxic chemical industries, sewage treatment plants and freeway crossings.
The slum dwellers are suffering from these environment hazards while simultaneously compounding them by encroaching on the riverbanks and green spaces. The slums are not connected to the municipal sewage system and there is no garbage collection. Slum dwellers cook on open charcoal stoves or use dung and fuel wood which exude noxious fumes in poorly ventilated homes.
The lack of sanitation in the slums is compounded by frequent flooding which brings effluent and rubbish straight into peoples' living spaces. Overcrowding is another serious health hazard with most people sharing a single room with at least three or more people. Most of the city's slum dwellers live in dense clusters of between 500 to 1,500 people per acre and the competition for living space can only get worse with ever larger numbers of people gravitating to the city.
There are urban planning directives in place but in Bangladesh, and in Dhaka in particular, there are lot of good idea and many well laid plans but no implementation, and often those who break the laws are the very same people who are meant to be enforcing it. This megacity is effectively an island surrounded by waterways on all sides which is now expanding beyond the belt of rivers that engulf it with bridges crossing into surrounding areas. Though most of the land around the city is a wetland which is meant to be protected, lax environmental regulation means that the city is encroaching ever further into the few bits of nature that haven't already been consumed.