This study explores the internal structures and differentiation of neighbourhoods within Dhaka – one of the world’s fastest-growing megacities.

Using city – and neighbourhood-level analysis, it reveals the critical urban challenges that threaten the sustainability of the city as well as the health and education outcomes of its residents.

Key findings:
  • Dhaka has seen rapid and unregulated growth. In a context of weak urban policies on migration and growth management, poor application of development control regulations and limited planned interventions at the neighbourhood level, the city experienced average annual rates of urban growth for 1991–2019 of 43% in the outskirts and 8% within the city boundary.
  • The economic benefits of urbanisation are outweighed by the significant damage caused to the natural environment and ecosystem, pressures on food production, and declines in living standards and quality of life.
  • As a consequence of urban transformation and migration, Dhaka’s neighbourhoods host a more diverse mix of people in social, economic, religious and ethnic terms than any other city in Bangladesh. Unplanned neighbourhoods embrace this diversity.
  • But responsive urban planning policies and interventions are lacking, which has led to social segregation. The quality of urban infrastructures, services and amenities are disproportionately better in affluent neighbourhoods; middle – and lower-middle-income areas are mostly unplanned and suffer high-density living and inadequate, poor-quality and unaffordable healthcare and education facilities. The situation is worse still in low-income communities, slums and urban villages.
  • Emerging urban settlements suffer most from the crowded living environment, with narrow roads, no piped water supply and a poor sewerage system. These settlements represent future threats for the sustainability and effective urban management of the city.