An initiative has been taken to establish the Barishal Nagar Unnayan Kartripakkhya (Barishal Development Authority).
The Housing and Public Works Ministry has taken the initiative almost 20 years after the formation of Barishal City Corporation (BCC).
The draft of ‘The Barishal Development Authority Act, 2022’ has recently been prepared to implement the move in view of the long-standing demand of the city dwellers. The 16-page draft has been uploaded on the website of the ministry for public opinion.
Luthfun Nahar, a deputy secretary (admin) of the ministry, said that they prepared the draft to establish Barishal Development Authority aiming to ensure planned development in Barishal metropolitan area.
There are eight sections that were incorporated in the draft law. It also has many sub-sections.
According to the draft law, the development authority will be formed with a 21-member body, including chairman, four government nominated members, Deputy Commissioner of Barishal, BCC’s chief executive officer, representative from urban planning department of public university, and deputy secretary-rank representative from Housing & Public Works Ministry.
City dwellers of Barishal are happy with the news. They said that formation of such a body is important to avoid unplanned urbanization in Barishal metropolitan area.
Anisur Rahman Khan Swapan, a researcher from Barishal, said that the number of people in the city is increasing day by day, while unplanned urbanization is also increasing. “Many built eight-storey buildings on a five-storey plan. Apart from this, dense settlements have also developed in some places without any planning. The Barishal Development Authority is needed for controlling such acts. We hope that its work will begin soon,” he said.
Barishal town, which is located on the bank of Kirtankhola River, became a first class municipality in 1985. In 2002, it got the status of City Corporation and it was announced Metropolitan in 2006.
However, no separate authority has been formed for the planned development in the city. As a result, the 58-sq km city is now expanding in an unplanned way.
However, the government established the Urban Development Directorate (UDD) in Barishal in 2016. There is also a manpower crisis there. Although there was supposed to be 300 manpower, the work of this department is going on with only six officers and employees, including two urban planners.
Although their work is limited to mapping and seating meetings, they have prepared a master plan and design for the planned development of the city. The organisations concerned are not implementing the work accordingly.
According to analysts, the importance of Barishal city has increased more than before due to many ongoing mega projects, including Padma Bridge, Rail Line, Payra Bridge and Thermal Power Station. There will be a four-lane road from Bhanga via Barishal city to Payra port. There will be railways as well. For this reason, many will choose to live in this city in the future. Many industries and businesses will be established around this city.
Against this backdrop, a separate development authority is needed for a planned city, said Md Bayezid, urban planner at Barishal regional office of UDD.
He said although Barishal city was expanded in an unplanned way, it is still possible to develop the city as a planned beautiful city. For this reason, it is necessary to proceed according to the plan and goodwill. It will be possible to see a planned development once Barishal Development Authority is established.
Syed Mohammad Farooq, chief executive officer of BCC, said that the BCC is working with its own planners, as there is no development authority. There will be a separate authority soon. Then coordination with the city corporation will facilitate the implementation of development projects in the city.
However, it was alleged that the draft law doesn’t involve citizens as urban development authorities. In most cases, government agencies have been involved there.
Prof Shah Shajeda, president of Socheton Nagorik Committee at Barishal, said that sustainable and planned development is not possible without involving its beneficiaries. Representatives from citizens should be involved in the proposed Barishal Development Authority.
Shah Shajeda also said that there are water problems in different areas of the city. Its canals and reservoirs are being occupied and filled. Private and government ponds are also disappearing. The roads in the extended wards of the city are not good. Multi-storey buildings are being built without properly maintaining law and environmental regulations. These must be stopped. Otherwise, formation of Barishal Development Authority won’t bring any benefit. Goodwill and planning are needed more than big projects to save the city, said the rights activist.
Rafiqul Alam, Barishal divisional coordinator of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan (BAPA), said that if natural issues, including environment and water management, are not included in the development plan now, that development will bring negative impacts. The proposed draft excludes a number of important issues, including communication, water, and environmental experts, he alleged.
Rafiqul Alam further said that the city development authority must also have councilors, water and environmental experts and civil society representatives. Then its benefits will be matched.