Inclusive urban governance in Chittagong

Akriti Manandhar, Chittagong Community Manager
Chittagong, 24 March 2016

Bangladesh, with growing population of around 156.6 million in 2013, has been experiencing rapid urbanization since its independence in 1971. In 2012, 29 percent of the total population was urban.

Bangladesh has been struggling to keep pace with the rapid urbanization and develop of its urban infrastructure and services, such as piped water, drainage, sewerage, roads and bridges. This has created serious problems like traffic congestion, pollution, health hazards, and a lowered environmental index. In addition, a number of institutions are involved in the management process of the cities, resulting in overlapping of their functions and lack of coordination. As a result, there has been poor implementation of public services and development projects. This poor urban infrastructure and government functioning has hindered employment opportunities and potential for economic activities. This mostly affects marginalized and lower class people, as they are deprived of the basic services for living, whereas the rich can pay to find other ways to cope with these shortcomings.

Organizations in Chittagong have been implementing small initiatives to make cities more accessible and livable to all. These include creating parklets in roads where small children can have safe spaces in the busy city, and helping poor children financially so that they can enjoy a good day in a park. One of notable initiatives that government of Bangladesh has taken is the "Inclusive City Governance Project." It aims to promote good quality of life, strengthen the administrative capacity of the city governments, improve governance, and create more economic opportunities.

This project was launched by the government in 2014 to deliver better public services in five city corporations, including Chittagong. The Japan International Corporation Agency (Jaica) and public coffers have together provided financial support for this project which is expected to be completed by June 2020. This project aims to improve urban infrastructure consisting of six components: drainage, sanitation, transportation, solid waste management, municipal facilities and water supply system which are not sufficiently developed. This is expected to reduce illegal dumping of waste, traffic congestion, water logging, pollution and other urban problems. As Chittagong is one of the most populated cities in Bangladesh, there are many people living in slums, and even on roads. This project might help to increase their standard of living a bit by giving them a cleaner environment to live in. It was observed that there was unclear responsibility and demarcation between City Corporation and central government, which led to poor implementation of development projects. Thus, after properly considering the limitations and problems, this project also aims to train to improve finance and administrative capacity and consulting services. This intervention hopes to reduce inequality, provide better urban infrastructure that reduces the gap between the rich and poor – all leading to Chittagong city being more accessible and livable to all of its residents.

Photo: Md Aslam

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