To become an upper middle-income country by 2021, Bangladesh, according to World Bank (WB), must manage its urbanisation sustainably. Being Bangladesh's long-term development partner, WB looks forward to working together to improve the livability, competitiveness, and sustainability of cities across the country. Of late, the multilateral lending agency has identified the challenges and ways forward to improve the cities here during a Dhaka conference, joined by over 300 mayors from across the country along with a number of mayors from abroad, urban planners and professionals.
Cities are called engines of growth. But rapid and unplanned urbanisation holds back cities from realising their full potential. Such urbanisation here has affected the liveability in cities. Country's city planning needs to be done in a more sustainable way so that rapidly urbanising parts have necessary infrastructures and services to make them good places to live in. About 54 million Bangladeshis live in cities today, and the number will more than double in next 35 years. Yet, one-fifth of urban dwellers live in utter poverty.
In Bangladesh, most of the cities and municipalities offer inadequate infrastructure and low levels of urban services. For local infrastructure, the country needs to increase spending. Compared to total public expenditure, the share of local spending - at about 3.0 per cent -is one of the lowest in the world. As a result, the cities are underperforming in terms of liveability. As a result, the cities are underperforming in terms of liveability. To meet the challenges of rapid urbanisation, the Centre of Excellence for Urban Development, a platform to exchange knowledge and build the capacity of the municipalities aimed at improving the liveability of cities has been introduced. The Centre is piloting a Young Professional Internship Programme aimed at planners, architects and engineers in 11 urban local governments. This is to forge partnerships for knowledge exchange on global best practices and city leadership.
The Centre of Excellence will also announce the winners of the national Champion City Awards Programme - the first of its kind in the country - which recognises good practices and innovative solutions. Experts and city planners emphasise on making long-term plans and policies for sustainable urbanisation in the country. Unplanned urbanisation creates various problems for the city-dwellers. The government, however, says that it is working relentlessly for the development of cities to improve people's living standard; public representatives are playing an important role in the development of cities. They are taking effective plans and policies to make the cities liveable for the people.
Bangladesh's economy is now on a strong footing. Compared to its neighbours, Bangladesh is now ahead in different indicators of socio-economic development. Capital Dhaka, alongside other cities, is witnessing rapid urbanisation here. But the city authorities are facing different problems due to rapid urbanisation as many developments are not taking place based on proper planning. Under such circumstances, sustainable development of Dhaka and other cities is needed based on proper planning and better coordination among relevant organisations. It is also to be noted here that poor drainage system is mostly responsible for water-logging in Dhaka and other cities. Therefore, improving drainage system as well as recovering canals and water-bodies in and around the cities are essential to get rid of inundation. For this to happen, taking an action-plan identifying different problems in Dhaka and other cities are necessary to make development sustainable. But for sustainable urbanisation, long-term plans and policies sound imperative.
Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled is a retired Professor of Economics.
© 2017 - All Rights with The Financial Express