City planning in Bangladesh needs to be done in a more sustainable way so that rapidly urbanizing parts of the country have the necessary infrastructure and services to make them good places to live, the World Bank said.
The comments on how the country needs to better manage its city planning were made as more than 300 mayors from all over the country, as well as a number of mayors from other countries, urban planners and professionals participated in a conference to discuss challenges and ways to improve cities in Bangladesh.
“Cities are engines of growth, but rapid, unplanned urbanization prevents cities from realizing their full potential,” said Qimiao Fan, Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal of the World Bank. “To become an upper middle-income country by its 50th birthday, Bangladesh must manage its urbanization sustainably. As Bangladesh’s long-term development partner, we look forward to working together to improve the livability, competitiveness and sustainability of cities in Bangladesh.”
In Bangladesh, rapid and unplanned urbanization has affected the livability in the cities. Today, about 54 million Bangladeshis live in cities and the number will more than double in the next 35 years. Yet, one-fifth of urban dwellers live in poverty.
Most of the cities and municipalities in Bangladesh offer inadequate infrastructure and low levels of urban services. Bangladesh needs to increase spending for the local infrastructure. The share of local spending compared to total public expenditure in Bangladesh is about 3 percent, one of the lowest globally. The cities are underperforming in terms of livability.
To meet the challenges of rapid urbanization, the conference introduced a Center of Excellence for Urban Development, a platform to exchange knowledge and build the capacity of the municipalities aimed at improving the livability of cities. The center is piloting a Young Professional Internship Program, aimed at planners, architects and engineers, in 11 urban local governments.
The 2-day conference forged partnerships for knowledge exchange on global best practices and city leadership. On the last day of the conference, the Center of Excellence will also announce the winners of the national Champion City Awards Program — the first of its kind in the country — which recognizes good practices and innovative solutions.
Honorable Speaker Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Mayor for Dhaka South, spoke at the inaugural session, which was chaired by the President of the Municipal Association of Bangladesh, Md. Abdul Baten.
The World Bank organized the conference in partnership with the Municipal Association of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Institute of Planners, Institute of Architects, Bangladesh and Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh with financial support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Since then the World Bank has committed more than $26 billion in grants and interest-free credits to the country. In recent years, Bangladesh has been among the largest recipients of the World Bank’s interest-free credits.