May 19, 2021

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Urban streams

The picture of urbanization in Bangladesh that emerged at a seminar organized by the Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP) last Sunday is very disappointing. According to the data presented at the seminar, currently 36 percent of the total population of Bangladesh lives in cities. In 2011 this rate was 26 percent. If the population of the city continues to grow at this rate, by 2050, 56 percent of the total population will live in the city.

Urbanization is happening faster in Bangladesh than in many countries of the world. Unemployment is the main cause of urban influx. Apart from agriculture, employment opportunities are less in rural areas. That is why the people of the village are gathering in the city. Apart from this, people are moving to cities due to natural calamities, river erosion etc. But whether the city can afford to meet their minimum needs has always been neglected. Us
The tendency to put oil on the head can also be noticed in city planning. For the same reason, a good initiative like Detailed Area Plan or DAP is not being implemented. The interests of the selfish quarters are being protected in the name of amendment.

The number of residential buildings, commercial buildings, office buildings, roads, water bodies and playgrounds in a city in proportion to its population is decided in advance. That is how the infrastructure of the city is built. A master plan was taken for Dhaka during the Pakistan period. Even after independence, plans have been taken during the tenure of different governments. But those plans were never fully implemented. As a result, the much-discussed ideal city-suburb has become a jungle of concrete.

According to the BIP, 32% of the total urban population in Bangladesh lives in one city, i.e. Dhaka alone. This is not only unusual, but also the result of unhealthy urbanization and unequal development plans. At the seminar, the urban experts rightly said that although the master plan of different urban areas was taken at different times, it was not implemented properly. The government’s policymakers do not seem to know the answer to that question. Local Government Minister Tajul Islam also acknowledged that urbanization was being planned piecemeal. He emphasized on providing city facilities in the villages as well to curb the flow of people in the cities. His statement is a lot like giving jackfruit mustache oil to a tree. They are not able to provide the minimum civic benefits in the city, how to provide the benefits of the city in the village? Planned urbanization will not happen just by boasting rhetoric and showing colorful dreams of development.

An unusual situation is prevailing in the urbanization of Bangladesh. While the population of Dhaka city is increasing rapidly, the population of many divisional cities is also declining. The reason for this mass flow towards Dhaka is the concentration of administrative and socio-political structure. Although the government talks about decentralization, in reality the opposite is happening. Centralization must be avoided for smooth and healthy urbanization.

A planned city means ensuring all the facilities including accommodation for all the residents there. But under the government’s city plan, the poor and low-income people living in the city are always left out. Unplanned urbanization not only increases the suffering of the citizens, but also slows down the pace of development. It has a serious negative impact on public health. Hopefully, the government will take the BIP proposals into account and not hesitate to take sustainable and effective measures to tarnish the image of the ‘uninhabitable city’.

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