Urban facilities in rural areas: We need sustainable plans

The policymakers in recent times have repeatedly said that the rural areas would have the same facilities like the urban areas, but the reality says something different. Every work and planning of the government is city based, which is contrary to a balanced development.

Local government minister M Tajul Islam on Saturday said the pressure on Dhaka would decrease if urban-like facilities could be provided in the rural areas. He said this while inaugurating an international conference organised by Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP). No one disagreed with his statement.

It will turn out to be a more inaccessible city if pressure on Dhaka is not reduced. Though it is said that the rural areas will have urban-like facilities, the question however remains -- how much it is reflected in the planning of the government? Providing urban-like facilities in the rural areas does not mean building some infrastructure. The government has to ensure basic necessities like employment, education and health facilities in the rural areas to make true progress.

The policymakers on one hand is making pledges to provide urban-like facilities in rural areas, but on the other hand they are centralising power. The constitution says to strengthen the local government system whereas the organisations are just for show.

They do not know how the development work will go on as most of the municipalities are not able to pay the salary of the employees. In an ideal system opinion of the people who will get the benefit of the development matters, but local people have no right to take part in our development planning. Everything is handled from the top while senior local government officials also remain in dark on most occasions.

In this fiscal’s budget millions were allotted in a few big projects. The allotment for the rural areas, however, was very less. Secondly, we witnessed that there is a huge gap between government’s planning and implementation.

According to a report of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), in 2018, 30.6 in every thousand people from the sample areas came to Dhaka. In 2017, it was 30.3 people on an average. In 2016, 30.3 people on an average came to the city whereas it was 29.5 in 2015, 28.2 in 2014 and 27.2 in 2013. It was 26.2 in 2012, and 23.7 in 2013. The number increased every year, but the government failed to take any initiative to address the issue.

One of the major problems is lack employment opportunities outside Dhaka. People are taking shelter in the cities after losing lands and homes in their villages due to river erosion, flood, and drought. The government has taken different initiatives like increasing employment scopes in villages, char employment projects, return to home programme, housing projects, and small loan facilities. The initiatives are good but very less than what is needed and most of them are on temporary basis.

>The minister mentioned 100-year development projects, but the government is mostly building temporary infrastructures, some of which become useless within 5 to 10 years. Therefore, emphasis on equality based development is needed before giving the rural areas urban-like facilities. We want sustainable development that will benefit all.