Revitalizing Batali Hill – urban resilience through symbiosis

When extreme urban growth cripples and encroaches the environment around, responsible strategic planning can help to revitalize the community and nature together to achieve resilience and sustainability.
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Designer(s) : Md Raquibul Hassan Bhuiyan

University : Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology

Tutor(s) : Patrick D' Rozario, Tahajibul Hossain

A city breathes through its green. The compromises that the authority does for the scarcity of land and accommodating over-population damage the natural landscape, as to them, they are considered redundant. Such is the scenario of Batali Hill, one of the richest natural landscapes of the port city of Chittagong.

The climate migrants reach the city in search of work. Here they are promised minimal living conditions at high prices in exchange for their labour in cutting hills. Now, the population is bordering on a hundred thousand with severe fatal cases of landslides every year. Severe growth of crime and uninhabitable living conditions have cut the place off the rest of the urban fabric. Here, human lives are just pawns in the devious cycle of unplanned development, who, have nowhere to go but here. Unless they work for nature rather than against it, this cycle cannot break.

To lead the community toward a resilient urban life, interventions along two core spines are proposed by creating a cultural corridor and a sustainable community, connected with the city by a vehicular and pedestrian network. A combination of bottom-up and top-down approaches will focus on existing road and housing networks, reconnecting them to create a new functional network and in some cases repositioning the existing fabric as little as possible.

The macro strategies taken are zoning and road network, and the micro-interventions include community upgrading. The pedestrian network holds together interaction between the zones so that the area can stay connected with the city.

In the three phases of intervention, the main road and economic artery are kept the same so that the daily economy can sustain simultaneously as the strategies are realized in various areas. This will protect the previous bustling street life of the community while in the background, it changes towards a better future.

The ecological protection zoning focuses on the revival of the hill ecology, the valley water retention area will act as an effective buffer between the community growth and previously encroached hills, preventing future encroachment. Both the community and the ecological revival of the encroached hill depend on the stored water. The water retention area can protect the lower city from flash floods creating a freshwater source for the community.

The cultural corridor utilizes the height gap between the city and the community. Removing the encroached structures which were at high risk of landslide, an outer pedestrian network together with a cultural centre and an Amphitheatre invite the people into the inner ring of the community. Both the cultural and recreation area can create economic opportunities for low-income families.

The hilltop observation decks on four hilltops provide tourism opportunities in the area. Each of the hilltops gives different views of the vibrant city and the Batali Hill community.

The community can sustain itself through the economic opportunities created by the whole area. They can foster their identity and hold festivals and weekly markets to showcase their handmade products, thus essentially creating a vibrant atmosphere that was previously limited. The houses can accommodate incremental growth, so people can utilize different spaces for healthy living. Urban farming near the natural hills can be a sustainable food and economic source. Slowly the stewardship toward nature will grow in the community. As time will pass, nature can revive and the inhabitants can thrive through symbiosis together.