‘Good governance, political will crucial for sustainable urbanization’

Speakers at a seminar today said good governance, implementation of urban planning, political will, equal development of rural areas, mass transportation and sustainable infrastructure development are crucial for sustainable urbanization and decentralization.

The speakers said this at a seminar titled “Decentralization of Dhaka and Sustainable Urbanization in Bangladesh” organized by Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI).

Land Minister Saifuzzaman Chowdhury spoke at the seminar as the chief guest. Kazi Wasi Uddin, Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Public Works and Dr. Farhina Ahmed, Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change were present as special guests.

Speaking on the occasion, Saifuzzaman Chowdhury said that the government is implementing many development projects equally throughout the country in all places.

He said in the next 10 to 15 years, more metro rail and elevated expressway will be constructed that will ease the pressure of traffic congestion.

“Our GDP growth is hovering around 6-7pc and that will be sustained in the next decade, “the land minister expressed.

“We have to change our mindset and there is a need for fine tuning. In the future, people will not go to land offices personally as government is going for full automation of the process,” he added.

Chowdhury also hoped that the draft of the Land Reform Act will be passed in parliament in October next.

In the proposed Act, Saifuzzaman said building infrastructures on three-time cultivable lands are strictly prohibited.

The land minister said that there is a need for industrialization for the sake of country’s development, but for that political stability is a must to continue development.

Kazi Wasi Uddin, Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Public Works, said that the government is working on detailed area plan (DAP) so that businessmen have some room for their businesses as well.

The housing and public works secretary said that his ministry will consult with the NBR for reconsidering the issue of tax deducted at source and higher tax for flat/land/property registration.

“Projects need to be inclusive; villages should have an equal share of development,” he added.

The secretary also suggested for planned housing estates beside the Economic Zones so that people working in the EZs can have urban facilities over there.

 Dr. Farhina Ahmed, Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change said 50% oxygen comes from the ocean whereas with the extensive uses of plastic, the heat of the ocean is being polluted.

“We have to be more careful regarding air pollution, water pollution and sound pollution,” she said hoping that the businessmen will be compliant more.

Dr Farhina said that in terms of infrastructure development, all should be careful about its quality so that the environment is not hampered.

DCCI President Barrister Md. Sameer Sattar said with the rapid economic development of the country, massive urbanization also needs to happen at a faster pace. Some 65pc of GDP comes from the urban areas, where 35pc of GDP comes from Dhaka alone.

He said that in order to mitigate huge traffic congestion and pollution, there is a need to ensure decentralization.

“For sustainable urbanization, decentralization will play a pivotal role,” the DCCI president added.

He also suggested that the government needs to attract long-term commercial investments, especially in cities outside Dhaka.

To ease human pressure on the capital city Dhaka, building planned satellite cities and increasing expressways can be a good solution, he mentioned.

Also, the large cities of the country should have better health facility, quality education and adequate banking and administrative functionalities to attract people to live in these cities as well, Sattar added.

Architect Iqbal Habib, Vice President, Bangladesh Environment Movement presented the keynote paper. He highlighted that in Bangladesh, 33% people are living in cities and its annual growth is about 6%.

If this trend continues, by the year 2051, around 55% of the total population will be living only at cities.

He stressed on transformation of monocentric city to polycentric city ensuring planned urbanization, decentralization of cities and developing rural livelihood.

Iqbal suggested for strengthening local governments, area-based investment management, use of green technology for infrastructure development, uninterrupted point-to-point connectivity in the economic zones and consistent policies.

Kazi Golam Nasir, Former Chief Architect, Department of Architecture said, “We have to motivate our people to save our arable lands. It is alarming that we are losing our arable lands at a faster pace and if this trend continues, one day we will have no lands to cultivate,”

Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Chief Executive, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), called for reforms and re-organization of RAJUK.

 She said that every division should have a long-term master plan. She emphasized on saving the wet lands and agricultural lands for future food security.

Mohammad Fazle Reza Sumon, President, Bangladesh Institute of Planners said that unplanned urbanization is the bottleneck of a planned decentralization.

“We have many urban plans but the problem is lack of implementation,” he mentioned.

Dr. Md. Shadi Uz Zaman, Managing Director Notundhora Assets Ltd. said that the government’s support is needed to build smart cities having smart density of people initiated by the private sector.

In the open discussion session, speakers urged for increasing high-rise parking in the cities and more elevated express-ways.

They also requested to revive the Buriganga River as it was in 60s or 70s. DCCI Director Hossain A Sikder suggested for relocation of industries to the specific industrial zones. He also urged for reconfiguration of the transportation sector.

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