For planned urbanization
From a city of some two million people at the time of the independence of the country, Dhaka’s population has swelled to some ten million and projections are that four or five million more people could be added to its population by the year 2015 making it the fourth most populous city in the world. Other big cities like Chittagong and Khulna are going to also expand their population in this period though probably not on such a big scale as Dhaka. The significant aspect to note is that the pace of urbanisation appears almost irresistible in Bangladesh like it is elsewhere in nearly all the developing countries.
Decentralisation, local growth centres, etc., have been tried in the past and could be tested with a new enthusiasm also in the future. But it is doubtful that the same would put a strong enough brake on people from coming and settling down in the urban areas. The urban areas have many appeals-including the major one of regular income and higher income-that the rural people find as very strong pull factors. Besides, with all the undesirable sides to rapid urbanisation, this trend, on the whole, is also the mark of a transitional economy.
Primary produce of agriculture form the major part of an economy at its nascent stage. Urbanisation marks a major shift of economic activities from agriculture to industries and services sectors and their greater contribution to the gross national product (GDP). Once upon a time, the developed countries of the world today had the bigger part of their population down in the villages who produced mainly agricultural goods. Now, nearly 90 per cent of their population, on average, have an urban existence and industries and services are their main occupation. But they have also become wealthier in the process and much improved their standard of living.
Thus, in the Bangladesh context, there is nothing to be apprehensive that the faster rate of urbanisation here is an abnormality. What should be of concern is not urbanisation itself but prompt adoption and implementation of policies for planned urbanisation. Urbanisation need not be perceived as a fearful or unwelcome phenomenon to afflict Bangladesh if the same can be better regulated to maintain the quality of urban life and achieve simultaneously a major transformation of the economy from its present rural centric nature to a more industrial or diverse one away from traditional agriculture.
In fact, urbanisation can prove to be a positive civilising and lift-up process-economically and socially for the rural folks-who would come to cities provided plans are well made and implemented to receive and absorb the exodus of rural people. This is the real challenge facing urban planners in the country.
The imperative is to start taking immediately the short and long term measures to make the most of the urban future. Keeping distinctly in view the inevitable growth of urbanisation, planning must be structured to contribute to two basic objectives : planned growth of the cities to take care of the environmental and social needs of all sections of people and expansion of services, opportunities and employment especially for the rural people.
If these twin objectives are progressively met, then urbanisation would not probably pose as a serious problem. On the one hand, regulations and their enforcement must be very thorough and unsparing so that none can attempt to violate the goals of planned urbanisation. On the other, much increased and sustained delivery of various utility services will have to be extended among the urban poor as well as the creation of the widest possible economic opportunities for them.