The scenario of urbanisation in Bangladesh presented at a seminar of the Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP) is very disappointing. According to the data presented at the seminar, currently, 38 per cent of Bangladesh’s total population lives in cities. It was 28 per cent in 2011. If this trend continues, 58 per cent of population will be living in cities by 2050.
Urbanisation in Bangladesh happening faster than in many other countries in the world. Unemployment is the main reason of the influx of people to cities. There is hardly much employment opportunities in the villages other than agriculture and so people flock to the cities.
People also come to cities because of natural disasters, river erosion and other reasons. But the issue of whether the cities can meet the minimum needs of these people has always been neglected. Our urban plans tend to focus on improving things that do not need improvement. And good initiative like the Detailed Area Plan (DAP) is not being implemented for similar reasons. The interests of vested quarters are being protected in the name of the amendments.
It is determined in advance how many residential buildings, commercial buildings, office buildings, roads, water bodies, and playgrounds a city will have in proportion to its population. Urban infrastructure is built accordingly. A mega plan for Dhaka was taken up during the Pakistan period. Various governments also took up plans after independence, but these plans were never implemented completely. As a result, ideal urban and suburban townships have turned into concrete jungles.
According to BIP data, 32 per cent of Bangladesh’s total urban population lives in a single city, Dhaka. And that is not only abnormal, but also a result of unhealthy urbanisation and an imbalanced development plan. Planners at the seminar said mega plans for various urban areas have been taken from time to time, but these haven’t been implemented properly. Perhaps the policymakers of the government know better about why the plans are not being implemented properly. Local government minister Md Tajul Islam also admitted that urbanisation plans were being implemented in parts. He emphasised availing civic amenities in villages to prevent rush of people to cities. If they can’t manage to provide minimum civic amenities in the cities, how will they ensure this in villages then? Rhetorical speeches about dreams of development will not result in planned urbanisation.
An odd scenario exists in the urbanisation of Bangladesh. On the one hand, population is rising fast in Dhaka, but on the other hand population is declining in many divisional citiies. Centralisation of administrative and eco-politico structures is the reason for this rush of people to Dhaka. Though the government talks about decentraliation, real scenario is the opposite. The tendency to centralise must be avoided for proper and smooth urbanisation.
A planned city ensures all facilities including housing for all of its residents. But poor and low-income people living in cities have always been left out in the government’s urban plans. Unplanned urbanisation not only increases the sufferings of the citizens but also slows the pace of development. It affects public health adversely. We hope that the government will not hesitate to take sustainable and effective measures to erase the bad reputation of “non-livable city” by taking the BIP’s proposals into consideration.