Urbanisation is a process that has characteristics and dynamics noticeably different from the rural setting. In Bangladesh, it is spreading day by day without appropriate planning and management. Bangladesh Bureau of Statistic (BBS) estimated in 2010 that about 33 per cent of the population in Bangladesh were living below the poverty line and a substantial number of them were living in urban regions, like, Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna and Rajshahi. Additionally, the growth rate of urban poor population was higher than the rural population. Nutrition Surveillance Project of 2002 reported that the number of population in every single urban territory in the nation had increased by 38 per cent against just 10 per cent growth in rural regions throughout the previous ten years. The major reason behind this growth was rural to urban movement. Around 30 per cent of the entire population live in urban areas and about 40 per cent of them live below poverty line.
It is anticipated that 50 per cent people of the country will live in urban areas within the next 35 years. 38 per cent people in urban areas live in slums where living conditions are truly unfortunate. The slum people experience a bundle of problems each and every day. Although the problems of the slum dwellers have been distinguished by different organisations at different levels, we barely see any improvement in their condition. Hence, the miseries of the urban poor are burgeoning day by day.
It is not difficult to say that the growth of urban poverty cannot be controlled without structural and infrastructural improvements. Each and every day, 1,100 people from the rural areas come to Dhaka city pursuing a better life. If we consider other cities, the total migration rate per day would be huge. Urban areas do not have enough space to accommodate the new migrants. Although they are entering and staying, the old inhabitants as well as new migrants in the urban areas feel exhausted. If migration to cities is not regulated, the urban situation will be more vulnerable in the near future. Decentralisation could be a short term solution but it is not easy to implement. Many issues have to be considered before decentralising the administration.
As the nation's objective moves upward towards becoming a middle income country, the requirement to consider and fulfil everybody's need is ever more pressing. In truth, demographic and economic patterns point to a future where the entire nation is prone to turn into one urban agglomeration. Effort to deal with this urbanisation process have never been more earnest at the very least in light of the fact that our urban areas are turning out to be more unliveable and unacceptable by the days, and unplanned land-utilisation is putting future sustenance and security into probable danger.
Urban dwellers have been observing for a long time that the main problems in urban areas have been identified by the government's administrative and management tiers, citizens, media, intellectuals, think tanks, academics, researchers, development workers as well as national and international development organisations. The major problems were identified as shortage of basic services i.e. housing, water and sanitation for the urban poor, unregulated migration of poor people from rural to urban zones, lack of safety in the roads for poor pedestrians, lack of affordable health facilities for the poor, dependency on specialised hospitals and clinics, unavailability of low cost daily products for urban poor, lack of opportunities to housing credit schemes for the poor, improper use of vacant land of urban areas, absence of regulated market in land, housing finance and building materials, lack of regular land settlement mapping, absence of high-power body to holistically plan, implement and oversee the development of industrial areas, drainage system, public transport and irregular traffic flows, lack of proper transport system around urban centres, illegal slum settlement, dependency on local bodies for accelerated service delivery, urban centralized education, professional trainings and job opportunities, presence of different types of violence, lack of monitoring systems and proper governance as well as lack of feeling of owning the urban areas. Air, water and sound contamination have come to, in different occasions, hurtful levels and the water bodies that are the assistance of most urban groups are dangerously infected. All these recognized issues have made Dhaka city unliveable for city dwellers, where other cities and urban centres are on the same way.
Many of our policy makers keep on interpreting the truth of urbanisation as an unwelcome story as opposed to acting towards comprehensive development and manageable situations. The process of fast urbanisation in Bangladesh is occurring in this manner without the advantage of a practical and wide based urban strategy and vision. Moreover, the government remains unsuccessful in adopting an extremely remarkable role in embracing and objectifying laws and policies to decrease urban imbalance and insolvency. However, the urban local government has neglected to assume its powerful role in urban development of Bangladesh because of the variety of institutions and the overlapping nature of their authority. The outcome has been contention, quarrelling and pointing the finger at one another for dissatisfactory and inadequate administrations. Perhaps, the day will come when the urban occupants cannot overlook the circumstance as a misfortune. Responsible individuals needing to live better yet giving numerous reasons to overlooking these issues will not have any reasons to sidestep the fiasco that day.
So, isn't it high time thought about the urban problems and addressed these earnestly? If the problems are identified and we are much aware of these important issues, then why are we delaying in starting proper work with a sustainable and proper plan? Why do we not make appropriate laws, policies and regulations based on current urban situations or problems? Why do we not establish a separate ministry to address these emerging issues? Another important question is where are the proper initiatives from the actors responsible for solving the urban problems? Lastly, we do not want to see only some projections which can make us only be hopeful, we want proper and tangible implementation of plans in a sustainable way as early as possible. We want liveable cities and urban centres in Bangladesh.
Shamim Hossain works in BRAC Urban Development Programme. E-mail: [email protected]