Minister for local government and rural development, Tajul Islam, was chief guest at the event. Mayors of seven city corporations participated in the dialogue.
Minister Md Tajul Islam said that joint efforts were required to build a safe and sustainable city. There is scope for all organisations to co-exist.
He said government land and canals were being illegally occupied. In order to increase revenue income, the holding tax as well as gas, water and electricity bills would have to be determined according to wealthier or poorer areas. Villages would have to be made into cities. He said that even in villages, proper infrastructure would have to be ensured for any construction.
The mayors are accountable to the people. The government organisations have no accountability. It is essential for every organisation to work together
Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) mayor Md Atiqul Islam said all cities including Dhaka were rife with illegal occupation and pollution.
He pointed out that house owners, even in upscale areas like Gulshan and Baridhara, were draining their sewerage directly into the lake rather than having septic tanks. And these very same people were complaining that the lake was smelly and polluted.
“You cannot just directly connect with city corporation drainage in this manner,” he said.
Speaking about water logging in the city, Khulna City Corporation mayor Talukdar Abdul Khaleque said, the Khulna Development Authority was filling up canals and selling the landfills for housing. Their master plan was quite different from reality.
He said that the city corporation should be given the authority to control other government organisations too. If not, it would be like tying up its arms and legs, throwing it into the water and telling it to swim.
Narayanganj City Corporation mayor Selina Hayat Ivy said that in her area, RAJUK has been given all authority for urban development, from constructing buildings and more. So what was the mayor’s responsibility, she asked.
Unless given the economic capacity, the city corporation would not be able to draw up a master plan for urban development, Ivy said.
Sylhet City Corporation mayor Ariful Huq Chowdhury said, resolving the city’s water logging, repairing the roads and tackling traffic congestion was a big challenge. The district administration was randomly issuing registration to vehicles. Roads were built with the capacity to bear four to five-tonne vehicles, but 10 to 15-tonne trucks were using these roads. There was need for coordination with the roads and highways department.
Chattogram City Corporation mayor Rezaul Karim Chowdhury said that this year too it would not be possible to completely free the city of water logging. He said sustainable cities were a must for sustainable development.
Rezaul Karim Chowdhury further said that the lack of coordination among various government organisations prevented the city corporations from being successful in their efforts. They had to face questions. The mayors were blamed for everything.
Gazipur City Corporation mayor Md Jahangir Alam said there were around 4,000 factories in Gazipur. The department of environment was issuing clearance, but the mayor gets all the flak. The mayors are accountable to the people. The government organisations have no accountability. It is essential for every organisation to work together.
Mymensingh City Corporation mayor Ekramul Haque said it is challenging to do any work unless there was coordination. He said in his area, permission was given to construct roads, drainage systems and buildings, without consulting the city corporation. A plan of action was required if the city was to be built up properly, he added.
Head of the European Commission’s Directorate-General, Daniela D’Urso, said the Covid pandemic was a challenge to socioeconomic and all sorts of normal life. Taking such future challenges into consideration, everyone would have to work hand in hand in a structured manner to build safe cities, she said.
Onno van Manin, Country Director, Save the Children in Bangladesh, said special attention had to be given to children in the building of safe cities. Children constituted one third of the total population.
UNDP’s assistant resident representative Ashequr Rahman said, one third of the population now resides in the cities. This would increase to 50 per cent over the next 15 years. The manner in which cities were growing, was giving rise to disparity in income and wealth. The urban poor were in a more vulnerable condition than the rural poor.
Presenting the keynote, BIP president Akter Mahmud said that safe cities would have to be built with social safety, public transport systems, use of public spaces, following building codes, etc.
It was essential for the urban policy to be approved. It would then be possible to achieve the goals through balanced urban development all around the country.
The dialogue was moderated by BIP general secretary Adil Mohammad Khan. He said, the city corporations had responsibility to build up planned cities. They must work on disaster management.