Unfortunate Neighbours: A Case Study on the Living Condition of Korail Slum dwellers, Dhaka
One of the biggest slums in Bangladesh is Korail, which lies close to Mohakhali, Gulshan, and Banani (considered the posh residential area of Dhaka City). As is well known, urban poverty rates are rising steadily across the board in metropolitan areas, but Dhaka is the worst hit. The city of Dhaka is under pressure, endangering the lives of slum dwellers because of a lack of urban land, insufficient urban infrastructure, and ineffective government policies. The main struggles, particularly those of the Korail slum dwellers, are the subject of this case study. It aims to comprehend well the fundamental problems, such as eviction, poor housing conditions, internal political power structures, and the scarcity of cheap urban housing for the poor. In order to better understand how the government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and private sector developers can help the urban poor, this study aims to define their respective roles and responsibilities. It makes the case that even though the Korail slum’s residents’ quality of life has improved due to the efforts of 31 NGOs, they still reside in a volatile area because the government wants to move them elsewhere for the slum’s development.
Keywords: Eviction, dwelling structure, government, NGO
ü DWSSA- Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority ü BRAC- The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee ü ASA- The Association for Social
ü DSK- Dushtha Shasthya Kendra
In Dhaka, directly across from the BRAC headquarters, is located Korail, one of the biggest slums in Bangladesh. From Bangladesh’s poorest regions, the bulk of the residents of Korail moved to Dhaka. Korail, a 100-acre city with a population of over 50,000, is described by BRAC as having a 100-acre total area. The major reasons for choosing Korail Slum, in particular, are that it is adjacent to the affluent neighborhoods of Gulshan and Banani, as was previously indicated, that the land is expensive here, and that the region has the potential for urban growth, which is the main reason why the impoverished slum inhabitants are evicted. Since this slum is located within Gulshan Thana, it has turned into a noxious boil for the wealthy Gulshan-Banani high society of the city. In the Korail slum on April 4, one of Dhaka’s largest forced slum evictions took place. The bulldozing of homes and businesses within twenty meters of the path caused damage to almost 2,000 buildings. Homes were completely destroyed by the government’s command (BRAC). Whenever I cross the chairman goli road from Mohakhali to Banani, the massive transformation from a poor, area to a structured, sophisticated area indicates power dynamics.
Participant observation and semi-structured interviews were used to perform this study. We conducted interviews with persons of all genders, occupations, and ages to have a better grasp of the affairs of Korail Slum. I have cited Lutfun Nahar Lata, Lefebvre, and a few more published articles to support my position. For security purposes, I left the interlocutors’ identities ambiguous.
Many different types of people have lived in the city for a while, and the majority of them relocated there because of a range of socioeconomic and environmental factors, including a lack of available land, river erosion, and natural catastrophes. People from a variety of districts, including Barisal, Faridpur, Sherpur, Barguna, Bhola, Jamalpur, Mymensingh, Chandpur, and Kishoreganj, reside in the slum. Among the residents of the slums, I observed a strong feeling of districtism. One of the migrants from Barisal who participated in the interview explained why he left his hometown. He claimed to have immigrated here with his father when he was a little boy and has since spent more than 27 years living in the Korail slum, where he also operates a modest tea shop. Since they were both born and raised in the same neighborhood, they have a strong social link. They even have a child in common. They continue to live in a state of ambiguity, nevertheless. Unfortunately, funding is scarce, and creating housing options for the urban poor necessitates a drawn-out political process. The housing delivery method is still unsuccessful since governmental and commercial developers favor employing labor in feed storage. I made an effort to identify some of the key components of their unstable living situation throughout the investigation.
The Area’s Employment Pattern
According to the respondents questioned, almost all of the slum dwellers are blue-collar workers. Most of them are rickshaw pullers, household workers, garment workers, and domestic staff,
which is the most common profession category. Those who are rickshaw pullers do not have any education or formal training. The other major groups are 21% of people who work in garment factories and another 17% of people who are street hawkers. According to a study, 13.8% are drivers of various types of vehicles, such as personal car drivers and CNG drivers (Sinthia). Housewives are active in domestic chores and work as maids in the Gulshan and Banani areas. The first interlocutor, who has a tiny tea station, makes a maximum of 10,000 BDT per month, with monthly housing expenses, utilities, and his two children’s schooling totaling roughly 12000–15000 BDT. “I take a loan every month and pay it back when I have extra money from a part-time job as a night watchman,” he said about how he pays for all of his bills. Others are in a similar predicament. The poor spend the majority of their income on food, as the minimum food expenditure is TK 600–1500 and the maximum is TK 8000. Housing is the second most important source of expense as per their monthly income level, and living in this area is expensive. It is important to note that a large percentage of slum dwellers are fourth-class government employees who are compelled to live in the slum due to insufficient family income.
Structure of the Households
The condition of the houses is cramped and inadequate where most of the families share a single room with 4-5 other family members. Rahman & Hasan (2016) investigated the conditions of Korail housing where they found that the houses are made of low-quality tins, bamboo, plastics which are very prone to collapse and not sustainable. Along with that, for sharing the rooms with multiple members has made the slum dwellwers more vulnerable spreading diseases such skin infections, as well as water-borne disease like diarrhoea.
The residents of the slum lack personal kitchens. They converted their living room into a cooking area and shared an outside space. The photo is evident that how poorly ventilated the kitchen is. Furthermore, they rely on shared public toilets as well, which are exceedingly unhygienic. Additionally, men and children take shower in public places. However, due to the poor materials and construction, these people experience significant problems during the rainy season.
The Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (DWASA) is responsible for providing 60% of the water in the Korail slum area, while the remaining 40% is obtained from external sources and regularly purchased by DWASA. Despite this arrangement, residents in the area experience inadequate water supply, as noted by Rina. As a result, they resort to using water from nearby
lakes for daily activities, excluding consumption due to its limited quality. Although electricity and gas services are available, they are not consistent or adequate in their provision. A report in the Daily Star highlights the significant danger posed to the inhabitants of Korail Slum due to the prevalence of faulty and hazardous illegal gas pipelines. It is estimated that there are at least 10,000 unauthorized gas connections in the slum, and the residents are reportedly being charged a fee of Tk 500 for each connection in households, while hotels and other commercial customers are charged Tk 1,500 (Hassan and Mollah). The residents of the slum also utilize gas burners within their cramped quarters, which exacerbates the danger, particularly in the absence of windows in many of these rooms. One of the interviewees expressed their concern, stating, “We are aware that we may face the peril of an explosion from an illegal gas line, but we are left with limited options.” The residents indicate that there are two criminal organizations responsible for supplying gas to the entire Korail slum area, and they utilize a tactic of disguising the pipelines as water lines through the use of galvanized iron (GI) and plastic pipes in order to deceive the public. Some police officers are accused of getting a piece of the illegal trade pie by supporting it. However, the claim was dismissed by the local police station.
In terms of services, the residents of the slum have limited access to formal education and training opportunities, with only three high schools available. Out of these, two operate in two shifts (morning and evening), and the remaining primary schools are run by non-governmental organizations, including some students who pursue higher education. Furthermore, slum dwellers do not have sufficient access to urban healthcare services and must rely on government hospitals and healthcare services provided by non-governmental organizations for medical treatment. During the fieldwork, it was observed that there was only one vaccination center available to serve the entire slum area.
Roles of NGOs and Government
We are aware of the efforts being made by NGOs and microfinance institutions to help the urban poor. NGOs in Korail, including BRAC, Bureau Bangladesh, ASA, DSK, SHAKTI, and others, concentrate mostly on non-formal education for working children and health clinics for pregnant women. Additionally, they offer microcredit assistance to slum inhabitants as well as some skill-based/technical training, notably for women. The government has a strategy that explicitly outlines the role of financial rewards between public and private parties in development and housing projects, with politicians benefiting primarily from both sectors. A significant amount of Bangladesh’s development efforts is funded by multilateral donors; however, the funds are often misused in the name of development.
Most real estate businesses focus on making a profit, and developers are more concerned with building homes for the upper middle class than they are with building inexpensive housing. However, it goes against Article 15(a) and Article 11’s assurances of fundamental human rights, which provide that everyone, regardless of economic status, is entitled to adequate housing. Since the implementation of neoliberal housing policies in the middle of the 1970s, the government’s function as a housing provider has changed. Lata claims that because slum residents constitute a threat to the metropolis, local and federal government authorities label them as criminals and disregard them (Lata).
In this regard, Lefebvre notes that the Dhaka urban poor commonly constructs informal settlements on public property in order to exploit this region as a “means of control.” Lefebvre asserts that the state has been changing biological landscapes into abstract places in collaboration with capitalists.
Although Bangladesh government has taken some proactive steps to mitigate the issue of slum dwellers by installing various programs and policies but there is still question remain about how adequate and sustainable are these programs are. Hossain (2010) looks at the power interactions between NGOs, the state, and local communities and assesses how much help NGOs may provide for inclusive and participatory decision-making. While NGOs can play a significant role in advocating for the rights and needs of marginalized groups, the author argues that if they ignore the larger political and economic structures that affect urban governance, their actions could also be disempowering.
All of the concerns raised indicate that those who live in slums are in a precarious situation. They cannot continue raising their voices since the landlords are very speculative and they have several other problems to resolve. Politicians defend those landlords. The residents of the slums always live in constant dread of being evicted. There is no proof of private sector land and housing development for the poor, and the bulk of government entities are corrupt and receive unjust advantages, which is the main reason why the impoverished slums are being disregarded. The interviewed individuals in the Korail slum expressed their desire to remain in their community, despite the numerous challenges they face. It is imperative that all relevant stakeholders, including government organizations, private sector developers, non-government organizations, and politicians, collaborate to address the pressing issues faced by the residents of the slum. The population of the Korail slum is entitled to a secure future, equivalent to that of
higher and middle-class citizens, and thus, it is incumbent upon all parties to work towards their betterment.
BRAC. “Forceful Eviction of Korail Slum.” BRAC, 09 April 2022,
Hassan, Rashedul, and Shaheen Mollah. “DESIGNED for DISASTER.” The Daily Star, 10 July 2017,
Lata, L. N. “Neoliberal Urbanity and the Right to Housing of the Urban Poor in Dhaka, Bangladesh.” Sage, vol. 11, no. 2, 2020.
Sinthia, S. A. “Analysis of Urban Slum: Case Study of Korail Slum, Dhaka.” ResearchGate.
Rahman, M. M., & Hasan, M. K. (2016). Housing condition and health of the slum dwellers: A study on Korail slum, Dhaka City, Bangladesh. Journal of Environmental and Occupational Science, 5(1)
Hossain, N. (2010). Empowerment or disempowerment? Assessing the role of NGOs in urban governance in Dhaka, Bangladesh. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 34(1), 165-186.