As part of the Government of Bangladesh's Vision 2041, a master plan has been jointly developed by the Urban Development Directorate, BRAC’s Urban Development Programme, and Gaibandha municipality to transform Gaibandha town into a model city.
To mark World Cities Day, which is observed on 31 October since 2014, the master plan was unveiled at a round table discussion on 'Financing Inclusive Urban Planning and Development', and an exhibition at the BRAC Centre in the capital on Wednesday, 1 November.
Gaibandha, a municipality with a history spanning over a century, is vulnerable to climate-induced disasters. Previously lacking structured planning, the municipality failed to adequately represent the needs of citizens across all segments. To position Gaibandha as a smart city and a role model, aligning with the Government of Bangladesh's Vision 2041, an efficient collaboration was established between the Urban Development Directorate, BRAC, and Gaibandha Paurashava.
The Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, Kazi Wasi Uddin, was present as the chief guest at the event, while the director of the the Urban Development Directorate, Dr. Khurshid Zabin Hossain Taufique, was present as the special guest. The event was chaired by Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC.
The Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, Kazi Wasi Uddin said, the government is actively engaged in constructing planned cities throughout the country, with rural areas striving to offer urban amenities. We have taken initiatives to facilitate the development of planned cities across the country, encouraging planning even when someone in a village wishes to construct a house.
He added, the Gaibandha plan stands as an exemplary model. Let's take BRAC as a trailblazer. We will also involve other stakeholders in this endeavour. Through our collective efforts, the country will make substantial progress.
Director of the Urban Development Directorate, Dr. Khushid Zabin Hossain Taufique said, this year's World Cities Day celebration holds significant meaning. We have experience in government-level planning, but in the case of Gaibandha, it was accomplished through a coordinated effort between the government and NGOs.
The Executive Director of BRAC, Asif Saleh said, "The trend that we see in Gaibandha where the population has moved from 3,000 to and now almost 200,000 is a country wide trend. We all need to fundamentally reorient our development thinking around urbanisation as people are moving to the cities for climate adaptation and aspirational reasons. Gaibandha urban plan is one step towards that. But the real success will come when this plan gets executed and seeing the success of this, other cities also adapt a more planned approach. When good urban planning and political will comes together, we can see great things can happen. Rajshahi is a great example of that. Now it is time to think about the tier 2 cities and towns and create environment-friendly model towns and cities so that it caters to every single citizen. We hope we can continue to work with the government on this as urban growth centres are the new driving force of economic development."
The event initiated with welcoming remarks from Md Imamul Azam Shahi, Programme Head of BRAC’s Urban Development Programme, emphasising the rapid global shift in urbanisation.
‘Gaibandha Paurashava Master Plan’ was presented by BRAC Programme Manager Md. Saif Iqbal and the project consultant Md. Kawsar Uddin.
In addition, the 'Mirsarai Upazila Master Plan' was presented by Ahmed Akhtaruzzaman, Deputy Director (Research and Coordination) of the Urban Development Directorate, and the 'Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar Master Plan' was presented by Abdullah Al Mahmud Faruk, Project Director (Joint Secretary) of the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority.
Following the presentations, an insightful and thought-provoking roundtable discussion ensued, featuring experts such as Joint Secretary Naila Ahmed from the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, Meer Ahemed Tariqul Omar, Deputy Chief at the Planning Commission, and Md. Matlubour Rahman, Mayor of Gaibandha Pourashava. The entire discussion was moderated by Md Liakath Ali, PhD, Director of Climate Change Programme, Urban Development Programme, and Disaster Risk Management Programme, BRAC.
In Bangladesh, creating safe, resilient, and sustainable cities and human settlements remains an ambitious goal. Since 2016, BRAC's Urban Development Programme has worked towards improving the well-being, resilience, and rights of urban low-income individuals, aiming to reduce multidimensional poverty and deprivation. The partnership between BRAC, Urban Development Directorate, and Gaibandha Paurashava seeks to introduce strategic innovations, locally-led planning, and implementation for the well-being of residents. This collaborative approach through government and non-governmental organisation partnerships in crafting such a master plan hopes to set a benchmark and contribute significantly to sustainable urban development in Bangladesh.