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«Planned Decentralization: Aspired Development Planned Urban Decentralization for Sustainable Development of Bangladesh Tusar Kanti Roy Assistant ...»

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Planned Decentralization: Aspired Development

Planned Urban Decentralization for Sustainable Development

of Bangladesh

Tusar Kanti Roy

Assistant Professor, Department of Urban & Regional Planning,

Khulna University of Engineering & Technology (KUET), Khulna

E-mail: tusarpln@yahoo.com

Saima Rahman

Lecturer, Department of Urban & Regional Planning,

Khulna University of Engineering & Technology (KUET), Khulna

E-mail : rahman.saima@yahoo.com


The present trend of planning practice is mostly oriented towards planning of cities and towns in Bangladesh. This involves huge amount of financial allocation/grants every year for the development and improvement of urban facilities and utility services for only 25% of the country's population living in the urban areas. In absence of appropriate planning and guidelines regarding the planned development of small urban centers at the local and regional level, the important cities specially the major divisional headquarters (such as Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi etc.) along with other important district towns of the country are experiencing tremendous pressure of urbanization for the last one and a half decade. Moreover, the rural to urban migration which is increasing at an alarming rate in search of shelter and occupation mainly, is acting as a big threat to the planned growth of the major divisional cities. As a consequence, urban dwellers living in the major cities are facing problems like overpopulation, unemployment, lack of utility and services, traffic congestion, lack of housing and recreational facilities etc. as a part of their everyday life. Ultimately the cities are becoming overcrowded and dirty. As a result air, water and noise pollution is taking a devastating shape in the urban areas of the country. Hundreds of city dwellers specially the rickshaw pullers, drivers of different vehicles, regular road users and small children are becoming prey to various diseases like- blood pressure, headache, eye infection, heart diseases, problems in the respiratory system, various skin diseases, cancer etc. So, decentralization of the urban activities among the upazila and district headquarters can be very effective in getting rid of the present trend of unplanned and haphazard urbanization in the country.

Proper initiatives can also be taken to develop small townships with respect to the region's own potentials providing necessary administrative, economic/industrial World Town Planning Day 2013 15 Planned Decentralization : Aspired Development activities, health, educational, recreational, housing and infrastructural facilities within the same town boundary.

Decentralization and Sustainable Development Decentralization is the process of redistributing or dispersing functions, powers, people or things away from a central location or authority. The meaning of decentralization may vary in part because of the different ways it is applied. Ideas of liberty and decentralization were carried to their logical conclusions during the 19th and 20th centuries by anti-state political activists calling themselves "anarchists", "libertarians and even decentralists.

Alexis de Tocqueville was an advocate, writing:

"Decentralization has, not only an administrative value, but also a civic dimension, since it increases the opportunities for citizens to take interest in public affairs; it makes them get accustomed to using freedom. And from the accumulation of these local, active, persnickety freedoms, is born the most efficient counterweight against the claims of the central government, even if it were supported by an impersonal, collective will." (UNDP, 1999) Sustainable development is that type of development that meets the needs and aspirations of the current generation without compromising the ability to meet those of future generations. It can also be defined as development which enables individuals and communities in underdeveloped regions of the world to raise living standards through profitable products, consistent with minimizing adverse environmental effects.

Dimensions of Decentralized Planning There are four major dimensions of decentralization: (i) Functional, (ii) Financial, (iii) Administrative, and (iv) Political.

Functional Decentralization In the functional decentralized planning some functions are transferred from the national or state level to the regional or sub-state level. Selection of such functions is done very carefully. A random transfer of functions results in inefficient and undesirable discharge of those functions at the lower levels. Such fear arises because the competencies available at the lower level may not be adequate to do justice to those functions. Similarly, some powers needs to be delegated to the lower level to discharge those functions. If these powers are not delegated along with the functions then there will be a mismatch between the two and the functions cannot be executed.

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Financial Decentralization Planning at any level without the necessary financial authority and resources is meaningless. In our country, like in other countries, most financial resources are mobilized by the Central government, which then distributes them to the lower levels. Different criteria are adopted for the allocation of development funds from the Centre to the regional levels. Some of the socio-economic considerations are the following: (i) area; (ii) population size; (iii) degree of relative backwardness, (iv) measure of tax effort, (v) special locational or social characteristics, (vi) commitment to major national schemes etc.

Administrative Decentralization

Administrative decentralization is also known as deconcentration. It means deconcentration of functions and some powers from government departments and agencies to their field offices. However, the “command” remains at the top.

Administrative decentralization involves taking a number of administrative actions, some of which are: Setting up offices at regional and local levels to move closer to the people; Designating the decentralized functions for each level; Making necessary delegation of powers; Assigning adequate finances; Posting adequately qualified persons through deputation or fresh recruitment; Establishing work procedures and framing departmental rules and regulations for coordinated functioning; and Providing technical guidelines to field officers and establishing a time-bound programme of activities to fit into the national planning process.

Political or Democratic Decentralization

In its perfect form, the concept of decentralization becomes the same as democratic decentralization. Now all people take part in the planning process. When only the elected representatives of the people take part in the process, it is called “partial decentralization”. When all sections of the population are empowered to take part in local affairs of the community, it is called “total decentralization”. There are three major components of political decentralization: Local autonomy, Devolution and Political Participation.

Urbanization, Urban Planning Practice and Education in Bangladesh Between 1974 and 2001 the country’s urban population grew from 6 million to 30 million, and it is expected to double or even triple by mid-century, with the highest growth rates (up to 7% per year) found in urban slums. The rapid growth of

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Bangladesh’s urban population is the result of a high natural population growth combined with in-migration from rural to urban areas by poor populations in search of jobs and economic opportunities.

Bangladesh’s urban population has been growing at a yearly average rate of 6 percent since independence, at a time when the national population growth was 2.2 percent.

As a result, urban population has grown six-fold, compared with a 70 percent increase in rural population (World Bank, 2007). As per recent UN data, approximately 25 percent of Bangladesh’s current population currently lives in urban areas. Of this urban population, more than half lives in the four largest cities: Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna and Rajshahi.

With a population of almost 12 million, Dhaka is the capital and largest city in Bangladesh. It is also the 11th largest city in the world. At the same time, it is consistently ranked as one of the world’s least livable city. Like many other Asian developing countries, an increasing share of population of Bangladesh migrates to urban centers in search for employment opportunities outside agriculture and into industrial enterprises or the services sector. Holding the prospects for better income opportunities than most parts of Bangladesh, rapid migration is causing Dhaka’s population to grow much faster than the rest of the country. This fast urbanization is putting pressure on the city’s limited land, an already fragile environment, and weak urban services. The population density is now believed to have reached around 34000 people per square kilometer, making Dhaka amongst the most densely populated city in the world. Poor city management and low efficiency are exacerbating the problems. Urban traffic has reached nightmare proportions, often causing huge delays in covering small distances with associated productivity losses. Water and air pollution from poor waste and traffic management poses serious health risks. The already acute slum population is growing further, contributing to serious human and law and order problems (Zaman et al. 2010).

Cities of Bangladesh are ill-equipped to absorb population influx as a result of outdated, ineffective, and poorly implemented urban planning. Only the four largest cities of Bangladesh have development authorities responsible for the city planning, and these plans have been poorly implemented due to a lack of political will and institutional capacity.

Senior planners in Bangladesh mainly come from architecture or engineering background and so, most of the professional jobs in town planning in Bangladesh are occupied by civil engineers or architects with or without having any planning education. Still today, the planning profession in Bangladesh is not well recognized 18 World Town Planning Day 2013 Planned Decentralization : Aspired Development and has to compete with other parallel professions for wider recognition. A consequence of these arrangements is that the perceptions of the planners working in Bangladesh are narrowly focused on physical and technical criteria. Planners seldom advocate for the urban poor or disadvantaged groups. Due to difficulties in planning enforcement, current practices and policies cannot manage the cities of Bangladesh.

Besides, in their profession, planners have to face both an administrative and a political labyrinth. Often they cannot practice their expertise because of conflicting power relations among different urban institutions.

Town Planners, Architects and Engineers are among intellectual professionals of Bangladesh. They are mainly working in the Development Authorities, City Corporations, Municipalities, Urban Development Directorate, Public Works Department, Local Government Engineering Department, Department of Architecture, Roads and Highways Department, Bangladesh Power and Water Development Boards and some other relevant government organizations. Their major roles and responsibilities are preparation and implementation of Master Plans or Urban Area Plans through controlling master plan landuses, designing buildings and establishments, development of infrastructures and ultimately providing utility service facilities to the urban people of the cities and towns. The roles and responsibilities of the Town Planners, Architects and Engineers have been specified in their respective charter of duties, laws, by-laws, policy documents and urban area plans. In spite of these, the cities of Bangladesh are facing a number of problems i.e.

traffic congestions causing wastage of man time hours and fuel energy, accidents etc.; unplanned and unauthorized constructions; collapse of buildings and fire hazards; water, air and sound pollution; inefficient solid waste management;

waterlogging, drainage congestion and poor sanitation; encroachment of rivers, canals and water bodies; disappearance of parks, open space and playgrounds etc.

There is immense scope of making the cities of Bangladesh planned, safe and environment friendly if the Town Planners, Architects and Engineers work together maintaining their respective professional ethics, sincerity, commitment, devotion and patriotism (Roy, 2011).

New Urban Planning would be proactive, with up to date strategic plans that make land available for development without trying to micro-manage land use. One problem in places like Bangladesh is that the legislation and institutions of planning are not attuned to the development realities of rapid urbanization and the urbanization of poverty. Perceptions about planning amongst political leaders and bureaucrats need to be challenged. Until then, planning and planners will be part of the problem, not part of the solution, and cities like Dhaka will find it increasingly difficult to compete economically with Asian cities that have made the connection between urbanization and modernization (Islam, 2011).

World Town Planning Day 2013 19 Planned Decentralization : Aspired Development The importance of urban planning for a developing country like Bangladesh can hardly be over emphasized. Bangladesh has a shortage of planner. With its limited land capacity and high population density, all the cities of Bangladesh show rapid urbanization. Moreover, during the last few years, urban growth rates and the number of municipality have increased noticeably. Without proper planning, this growth trends and newly established municipalities will create more serious social, environmental and other problems, which may lead to the urban areas inhabitable situations for the city dwellers. Increased number of planners needs to be produced with options of their work in Bangladesh in order to promote the planned development of all the urban areas. For this reason, urban planning education has been effective and introduced in Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Khulna University (KU), Jahangirnagar University (JU), Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology (CUET), Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (KUET) and Rajshahi University of Engineering & Technology (RUET).

Problems of Decentralization

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