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On the Verge of Collapse

  • Published at 04:17 pm June 28th, 2018
  • Last updated at 12:05 am June 29th, 2018
More than half a million migrants each year Photo: Meraz Mostafa

Building Climate-Resilient, Migrant-Friendly Cities

Dhaka is on the verge of collapse. With more residents than it can safely accommodate, the city either needs to continue to urbanize (which require the destruction of the city’s surrounding wetlands that play a major role in preventing flooding), or internal migrants need to locate somewhere else.

Of course, the citizens of Bangladesh are free to move within the country as they like; they cannot simply be barred from living in Dhaka. However, they can be incentivized to move elsewhere -- to secondary cities in the country.

As climate change worsens, and more people are likely to migrate from their rural homes to urban centres, it is imperative that Bangladesh pursues a policy of creating climate resilient, migrant-friendly cities to disperse the massive influx of migrants moving to Dhaka.

Climate resilient, migrant friendly cities are secondary cities designed to both withstand the potential shocks of climate change, as well as regulated to receive migrants in a manner which is both beneficial to the city and the migrants themselves.

Not only would investing in these cities ease pressure from Dhaka, but the cities themselves would be able to grow their local economies, which in turn would draw in more migrants.  

However, secondary cities in Bangladesh need to put active effort into drawing in rural migrants, both through providing potential livelihood opportunities and highlighting other benefits the city may offer.

The most important factor in attracting migrants is the provision of livelihood options such as housing, education, health care, water and sanitation facilities, and other social services. As such, each of these cities needs to build on their comparative economic advantages to invest in manufacturing and/or services that will generate employment opportunities for migrants.

These needs can be met through both public and private initiatives and investment.  If needed, the government should seek technical and financial support from development partners.

Such a national initiative will require the central government to act as an anchor, and coordinate this process of planned migration.

A major challenge to this goal is that close 70% of the country’s money supply moves through Dhaka; and Dhaka and Chittagong combined receive more than 60% of the country’s capital investment. This has led to disinvestment in other regions of the country, where there is less job opportunity, less quality education, and even less health care facilities.

Hence, it is crucial that a national level policy is made that begins that decentralizes resources from Dhaka and Chittagong, so that secondary cities across the country become more economically viable, drawing in more internal migrants. Such a policy would thereby ideally disperse the spread of internal migrants in the country away from Dhaka city.

The ICCCAD Urban Team works with municipalities across the country, attempting to build climate resilient, migrant friendly cities