Dhaka/ Influence of British Rule in the Modernization of Dhaka – Infrastructure

Under the influence of the Industrial Revolution, many technologies got to advance to the next level in Europe.  After the British Crown took over control of the region in 1858, and the establishment of the Dacca Municipality on 1 August 1864, they brought these technologies to Southeast Asia, including railways, modern water and electricity supply systems, and sewage systems.

Dhaka Drainage

Figure 1: Water Supply System in Dhaka

The above figure illustrated the water supply system in Dhaka nowadays which mainly developed during the British rule in 1874.  Electricity supply was also introduced in 1878.  These systems are being considered very advance in the Southeast Asia by the end of the 19th century.  These helped raising the living standard of the people living in Dhaka.

Roads and Rails under British Rule

Figure 2: Roads and Rails of Dhaka Under British Rule

Figure 2 shows the roads and rails developed under the British Rule.  Railways in Dhaka were being introduced in 1885 connecting Dhaka and Narayanganj.  Four years later, in 1889, Mymensingh was also connected to Dhaka.  The establishment of these railways and roads enhanced the trade between the coast and the inland of Bengal (later Bangladesh).  People and goods can have a higher flexibility between these places.


Figure 3: Dhaka (Dacca) in 1924

From figure 3, more area was being developed comparing with figure 2’s built area.  Dhaka College was established in 1835 as an English School, educated lots of local Muslim and Hindu students as well as Armenians and Portuguese Diplomats’ children.  It can be identified as the establishment of education system in Dhaka.  In 1921, the University of Dhaka was established as the continuum of Dhaka College as a tertiary studies, educating Dhaka talents till now.

3 Comments on “Dhaka/ Influence of British Rule in the Modernization of Dhaka – Infrastructure

  1. The British had colonized many places around the world, bringing their influences to these places. Infrastructure as you mentioned was an important part of its influences. Seeing that Dhaka was an area prone to flooding, heavy rain and typhoons, did the British offered any infrastructure or alteration of the urban fabric to deal with such problem? How did the city react to such extreme climatic conditions? Are there more infrastructure related to the city that could be explored such as the spread of education and medical services? How did the locals respond to such infrastructural changes?

    • These questions are very important. Point to specific examples of the effects of infrastructural changes and try to decipher what the infrastructure and their effects reveal about Dhaka’s hierarchy of values in urban planning. Whom and what do they protect and why?

  2. There are two wonderful historical ideas that need to be tied together for a more complete research – the modernization project of infrastructure construction, and the constant threat of flooding. It is a history centered around water as a resource and as a problem. In fact, flooding is known to contaminate fresh water supplies of the city. There are some wonderful historical materials, but the narratives need to be directed better, instead of following the normative historical accounts that you have been reading. If possible, identify a critical moment in history, when the local government drew up a comprehensive flood protection plan for the city. Document this in relation to how it takes precedence over other water infrastructure or modernization issues.

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