Experts paint dismal picture of land planning in country

Bangladesh could not bring even one per cent area under proper planning

Experts paint dismal picture of land planning in country

Planning experts at a programme on Saturday said Bangladesh could not bring even one per cent area under proper planning.

Although it is claimed that 6.0 per cent of the country's land area has been planned, there is no budget to implement those plans, they added.

They also said despite graduation from LDC to mid income country measured by national income or GDP growth, it will be meaningless if the living standard of people is not ensured through the planning process.

Rather various government agencies along with citizens have been misusing lands in a land-scarce country like Bangladesh which should be taken care of immediately by involving planners in the development process, they said.

The projects undertaken now are mostly market driven and do not have any thought there to reduce rising inequality which will increase with becoming lower middle-income country.

They also said Bangladesh is a perfect example of 1850s social theory of 'Tragedy of Common' as people are becoming increasingly marginalised in the name of development and some groups are grabbing resources.

The observations were made at a seminar on 'Bangladesh Graduating from LDC to Developing Country: Role of Planners' at Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP) auditorium in the city. BIP and Khulna University Planners Alumni jointly organised the programme.

Bangladesh Bank deputy governor Abu Hena Mohammad Razee Hasan was present as the chief guest.

Senior assistant chief of Planning Commission (on lien) Taibur Rahman said although it is claimed that 6.7 per cent land area has been brought under planning, practically the country could not bring even zero per cent under planned area. Ninety-nine per cent of plans was never implemented while only 10 per cent of Dhaka's master plans were implemented.

"The plans could not be implemented as there was no link with the budget except for the five-year plans," he said.

In his presentation, Urban Development Directorate (UDD) director KZH Taufique said they have planned 6.7 per cent of the land area to be implemented for next 20

years. Four per cent of the country is urban which can be increased to 25 per cent by 2025.

He also expressed the hope that by using planning 40 per cent of the SDG goals can be achieved directly. There are 470 growth centres now. But six first order plan, 20 second order and 50 third order planned growth centres or 76 urban centres are needed by 2050.

BIP Vice President Prof Akter Mahmud said the projects undertaken for the last one decade do not think about lowering inequality. Bangladesh is a perfect example of telling the theory of Tragedy of Common as the people become marginalised and resources are grabbed by a few groups as soon as the projects are planned and implemented.

He suggested measuring the country's situation by median household income instead of national income or GDP which is used by the developed countries. Operational audit should be made mandatory for the plans and projects to detect the progress and flaws.

Roads and Highways (RHD) consultant Masum Mujib said earlier roads department used to construct bypass which has now become impasse and there was no land use plan. They have been thinking of constructing six flyovers between Joydebpur and Tangail at the growth centres and another 15 to 20 flyovers from Jamuna Bridge to Dinajpur.

RHD has constructed roads without taking into consideration the slow-moving vehicles at a cost of Tk 29 billion. Now they are revising it making it Tk 60 billion project to construct 11 underpasses on Joydebpur-Tangail side and 30 from Jamuna Bridge to Dinajpur side.

"We are not using land properly and have been misusing. We need an urban development ministry to have compact land development," he said.

Detailed Area Plan (DAP) project director Ashraful Islam said the first conflict in the process of graduating from LDC to middle income will be with the planners.

Middle income country means more industrialised, loss of agricultural land and floodplains polluting environment. Planners should be involved in the planning process as 94 per cent of our country is still beyond planning. Every inch of the land should be under plan in this land scarce country, he added.

BIP secretary Adil Mohammed Khan said the Planning Commission should analyse the district budget before allocating fund to any project. There is example that a project proposal was submitted for a haor development in Gopalganj at a cost of Tk 30 billion. "A trend in laptop or briefcase planning has been going on," he added.

Razee Hasan said export is lower than import in the country. Especially the trade gap has crossed $3.0 billion and balance of payment gap $1.0 billion due to import of capital machinery for the mega projects.

He said the country will not be able to sustain the middle income status unless there is planned development.

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