Special Feature

Majority citizens concerned over imbalanced urbanisation in Bangladesh

19 Oct,2016


Special Report:

Some 69 percent of the country’s urban population are concentrated in its eastern part comprising three divisions -- Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet which shows a regionally imbalanced urbanisation, according to a study.

Cities and towns in the western part comprising four divisions -- Barisal, Khulna, Rajshahi and Rangpur -- are not only smaller but also growing more slowly than those in the eastern part, said the study commissioned by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) based on the 2011 population census.

The findings of the study titled ‘Urbanisation and Migration in Bangladesh’ were disseminated at an event jointly arranged by UNFPA and General Economic Division (GED) of the Planning Commission at the NEC conference room on Wednesday.

Australian university Professor Gavin Jones and Dhaka University’s Geography Professor AQM Mahbub jointly presented the report.

According to the report, 34 percent of the population of the eastern part live in urban areas, compared to 17 percent in the western part.

Compared to the western region, the eastern part is much better having certain vital urban facilities such as natural gas, electricity, transport, credit and markets, it said.

Among the country’s four largest metropolitan areas, Khulna and Rajshahi may actually have lost population over the decade between 2001 and 2011, the report added.

The proportion of the population living in urban areas was only 9 percent in 1974, which stood at 28 percent in 2011. Bangladesh’s population is projected to increase by some 39-53 million over the next 30 years till 2046, the report said.

Noting that the total urban population are becoming increasingly concentrated in the vicinity of the capital city of Dhaka, the report said in 2011 Dhaka megacity had a population of 14.2 million, 34 percent of the country’s 39.8 million urban population.

According to the UN estimates, in 1960, Dhaka had only one-tenth of Kolkata’s population, but it had passed Kolkata by 2005.

Some 42 percent of inter-district migrants went to Dhaka district alone and 56 percent to the three districts -- Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj – giving the Dhaka the status of a megacity, it noted.

Presenting the study report, Prof Mahbub recommended some specific policies for sustainable urbanisation and management of massive migration towards Dhaka megacity.

He said the policies should be taken to decentralise some employments and facilities from Dhaka megacity, give priority to development of secondary towns, decentralise city administration and empower local government, impose restrictions on development of certain industries, businesses and services within or near the megacity, create adequate employments and associated facilities in and around rural regions and protecting the megacity from environmental and social catastrophes.

Prof Mahbub said the government should immediately buy wetland in and around Dhaka megacity. Otherwise, the wetland will be occupied and filled by the grabbers.

Another Dhaka University’s Geography Professor Dr Nurul Islam Nazem said everybody wants to come to Dhaka as the Dhaka city alone contributes 40 percent of GDP, while Dhaka, Narayanganj and Gazipur contribute 60 percent.

“To reduce migration flow in the megacity, it needs to ensure quality education and health facilities in the other cities and towns,” he said.

It is alarming that Dhaka has been growing fast for the last 50 years without any plan. “We have to be very realistic to save our agriculture land, water bodies and forest; or else our development will be fragile,” he added.

GED member Prof Shamsul Alam said the study will help the government take policies and plans in the future.

He, however, said it is now difficult to distinguish the rural area from the urban area as the condition of roads are good in rural areas and the people now enjoy electricity and cable television facilities there. “What you have in Dhaka city is available in the rural areas.”

UNFPA Representative to Bangladesh Argentina Matavel Piccin, GED Chief Naquib bin Mahbub and Senior Programme Manager of IOM Bangladesh Abdusattor Esoev, among others, also addressed the event.

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