Roy S, Sowgat T, Islam SMT, Anjum N. Sustainability Challenges for Sprawling Dhaka. Environment and Urbanization ASIA. March 2021. DOI: 10.1177/0975425321997995


Dhaka’s sprawled area is likely to supersede the total land area of the Dhaka city in the near future. This article combines quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate sustainability concerns that have arisen because of irregular and rapid sprawling in Dhaka.

Land cover change detection reveals that since 1991, the city outskirts have seen an addition of 234 square kilometres of built-up area. Spatial metrics show the dynamic process of infill and the fragmented transformation of land covers in Dhaka, which have led to low-density, leapfrog and ribbon sprawling. The city outskirts, especially the economically advantaged regions, have been observing rapid urban densification of neighbourhoods.

Field observation and interviews in 19 sprawled areas confirm that the change has been influenced by industrialization, increasing demand for housing, high cost of living in Dhaka city, growing population and lack of development control regulations.

The advantage of the sprawling process is that it offers economic opportunities, contributing to poverty reduction and national economic growth. However, the abrupt and sporadic nature of this transformation puts the long-term economic and environmental viability of new business activities and habitation into question.

Congested housing, poor accessibility, inadequate drainage system and sanitation facilities in sprawled areas have resulted in poor liveability and created social inequality, thus impeding the way for a sustainable urban transformation of peri-urban Dhaka.

This article calls for a greater acknowledgment of sustainability concerns in development control regulations and a more inclusive form of governance to deal with existing sustainability challenges for Dhaka city and its rapidly transforming peripheral region.