The city corporation should act as a bridge to connect community-based organisations to other donor-led projects
Poverty reduction in urban areas is accompanied by enormous challenges in scale and complexity. These challenges become more gruelling for megacities in developing countries, such as Dhaka. One of the key features of Bangladesh’s fastest economic growth is rapid urbanization. A study found out that Dhaka, being the capital city, attracts around 300,000 to 400,000 migrants from rural areas to reap the benefits of the city's improved living standards, and in turn, the new migrants contribute greatly to Dhaka’s economic growth by providing much-needed labour to manufacturing, services, and other sectors.
As one strolls around Dhaka, omnipresent poverty is found everywhere, clearly manifesting the growing inequality between rich and poor. The slum dwellers of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) are deprived of basic services like secure and hygienic shelter, water, sanitation, electricity, health, and education since these slums are not established upon legal lands. Hence, donors’ participation is needed in these circumstances to put greater resources into urban infrastructure and service provision. However, in reality, a gap exists between what is needed to reduce urban poverty in developing countries and insufficient responses by the donors due to their limited capacities
A study by UNDP found that currently, in Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), around 15 projects connected to the urban poverty reduction are actively working which have funding agencies like UNICEF, Concern Worldwide, Irish Aid, WaterAid, Charity, European Union (EU), Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and Government of Bangladesh (GoB).
These projects aim to provide organised support to marginalized urban communities focusing on a participatory approach and enhancing government and donor resources. However, given the size of the city corporation and the influx of rural-urban migration, the projects are not in a position to cover all the urban poor. Rural-urban migration happens when people are pushed away by river erosion, socioeconomic, and climate change factors. The climate migrants who relocate to big cities, such as Dhaka, are forced to leave their forefathers’ lands and assets just to safeguard themselves from rising sea levels, unanticipated storms and flooding, water scarcity, desertification and other climate-induced changes to the environment.
These factors affect the job opportunities, especially in the agricultural sector, the driving force of the rural economy. According to the International Organization for Migration, approximately 70% of slum dwellers in Dhaka moved here after experiencing environmental hardship. These urban poor settles in precarious land with high eviction rates and insecure land tenure with limited access to health care programs and social safety nets. Referring to the slum census 2014, DSCC has around 1,755 slums with 1,47,056 inhabitants.
Referring back to the development projects, most of the focused sectors of these projects are governance, environment, and health. Also, some projects are working on nutrition, education, WASH (Donor Efforts Mapping in DSCC, 2020). While mapping out the donor projects, some overlapping projects have been found working for the same sectors in some wards with a good potential of creating inter-project coordination. Six projects are working on the governance and environment sector, while five projects are currently running on the infrastructure sector. Most of the funds are concentrated in the Wards of Zone 3, 4, and 5. The projects are also working to build the capacity of the local government staff and the local elected representatives. Furthermore, some of the projects are supporting the local government to activate and strengthen the standing committees.
Since multiple projects are working in common sectors, their incongruous delivery may confuse the Local Government if there’s no coordinated approach followed for project delivery. While at least two projects are being implemented at each Ward. Six projects are running simultaneously at Wards 16, 17, and 31.
That means ward-level coordination is required among the projects to minimize duplication and maximize the beneficiary coverage within Wards. The spatial disparity is observed in the north-eastern part of DSCC. While some wards have multiple projects it is found certain areas such as Zone- 6, 8, 9 do not have any projects there which means a major part of the city corporation is being overlooked, as no donor-aided project is currently operational in this area.
DSCC had a comparatively low employment rate, but the situation got better when one of the largest urban poverty projects called Livelihoods Improvement of Urban Poor Communities Project (LIUPCP) started working on settlements living conditions, socio-economic and livelihood improvement including the training, workshops, campaigns, socioeconomic grants like- skills development, business start-up, education; awareness rising; linkage & advocacy; local economic development strategy; working on small scales to uplift the poverty conditions.
Some donor-aided projects are involved with infrastructural improvements, such as roads, footpaths, street lights, drainage, etc. Although DSCC offers a decent footpath facility with a proper lighting system, the matter of concern is the poor drainage system because drainage is directly correlated with the longevity of roads, water supply, and sanitation. A significant repercussion of poor drainage systems is water-logging, which is a widely spread phenomenon in DSCC; the authority has identified over 50 water-logging prone areas, but there is no visible improvement because of lack of coordination among the implementing agencies.
To ensure inclusiveness in project delivery and to minimize redundancy of funding into similar projects, a Working Group on Project Coordination should be formed to maintain a concordant relation among the project authorities under the leadership of DSCC. One representative with decision-making authority from each project should be a member of this group. This group will oversee the management of the running projects, take discussions to incorporate future projects.
The DSCC authority should persuade all project stakeholders to develop a holistic spatial plan covering all Wards. This will make sure all project benefits can reach the maximum number of poor.
Also, the authority should take steps to scale up the projects which are currently running only in selective parts of the city. Special attention should be given to increase project activities in the Wards, where poverty is critical. Besides, the City Corporation should enable the decentralized and standing committees to actively contribute to their respective areas with the effective authority of decision making. Since there are many projects related to governance, the city corporation should harvest the benefit from these projects to build the capacity of these standing committees.
Moreover, the city corporation should act as a bridge to connect community-based organisations (CBOs) to other donor-led projects. These projects can be more participatory and inclusive and support the community organisations for self-sustaining to boost their capacity interventions. Specific policies need to be incorporated in the spatial plan to manage the influx of climate migrants. This phenomenon is expected to continue because of the country’s vulnerability to climate change due to geographical disadvantages.
Rupita Tahsin is working as a Junior National Consultant (Research for Global Center Adaption) at UNDP, Bangladesh. Her areas of interest include Urban Resilience, Urban Planning, and Management; Quantitative and Qualitative methods, Big data; GIS, and Spatial Analysis, Public Policy. She can be reached at [email protected]
Adiba Nahreen is working as a Young Professional, a2i - Aspire to Innovate Programme of UNDP, Bangladesh. Her areas of interest include Urban Planning and Management, Urban Governance, Spatial Planning, GIS, and Remote Sensing. She can be reached at [email protected]
Mohammad Kamruzzaman Palash is working as Urban Planning and Governance Coordinator, Livelihoods Improvement of Urban Poor Communities Project (LIUPCP) at UNDP, Bangladesh. He can be reached at [email protected]