Despite around one-third of the population of Bangladesh living in the urban areas, most of these areas fail to meet the required standards of human habitation.
Mayors of city corporations and municipalities, the people responsible for the development of urban areas, are failing to perform their duties largely due to the lack of support from the central government.
These findings were revealed during an international conference titled “Building Knowledge Networks and Partnership for Sustainable Urban Development in Bangladesh” organised by the World Bank in the capital on Saturday.
The conference was attended by more than 300 mayors from all over the country where most of the mayors expressed their resentment over the poor working conditions and limitations.
Currently, there are 12 city corporations and 330 municipalities across the country.
Narayanganj City Corporation Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy said: “The central government of Bangladesh has always had a tendency to weaken the local government organisations like city corporations and municipalities.”
“The scenario in the developed countries, however, is completely reverse.”
“When we file a development plan under public-private-partnership (PPP), the central government delays the approval of the proposals in most of the cases,” Ivy said further.
“If the central government does not support the local organisations, none of the town authorities can achieve the development goals,” she added.
Ivy also expressed disappointment over the requirement of Rajuk approval for the construction of buildings above two-storey in Gazipur and Narayanganj.
The city corporations are operated following the Local Government Act (City Corporation) 2009, but the mayors are not empowered enough by the law to execute all the provisions of the act. There is not a single mayor who has a sound work environment, the participants said during the meeting.
Tarikh Ahmed, mayor of Rohnapur municipality said: “We are facing problems to get government funding. We cannot provide better service without adequate funds.”
Former Tongi Municipality mayor Azmat Ullah Khan pointed out that there is a lack of experts at the municipality level to prepare detailed plan for development projects which often causes delay to channel funds from the government.
Mel Senen S Sarmiento, former mayor of Calbayong City in the Philippines, said that there should be sync between the development plans at local and central level otherwise it would turn into a chaotic situation.
“To make rapidly urbanised parts of the country liveable with necessary infrastructures and services, Bangladesh needs to focus on city planning in a more sustainable way,” said Qimiao Fan, World Bank country director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal.
“To become an upper middle-income country by its 50th birthday, Bangladesh must make its urbanisation sustainable,” he said.