Thursday, August 07, 2008

A city out of control

More than 13 million people, nearly a third of them very poor, and Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is still growing at more than 3 percent a year. By 2015, the UN figures, it will be the second biggest city in the world . This is not good news.

The traffic is crushing, you feel the press of people everywhere and it's dirty and polluted. The gardens and play fields that made this the choice for a capital city are now filled with squatters pushed out of slum buildings knocked down to get rid of them. Families live on sidewalks and in parks. The waterways are filling with sewage. That's only part of the infrastructure that is over-stretched. The electricity flickers on and off during the day. "Welcome to Dhaka," said my co-workers. (It sounds like Taka when they say it.)

This view is from my 10-floor hotel room. I've been put up in a Westin. Two plush double beds, free internet, a jacuzzi and every night a treat on the night stand like fruit or cakes. The staff salutes when you pass and holds open doors. "All the foreigners are very happy here," said the driver in the hotel's orange-scented car who brought me from the airport.

I don't like being a representative of the Haves.

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