Participatory planning and inclusive urban governance

March 23rd, 2016

There has been encouraging evidence in influencing inclusive urban governance necessary to face future challenges of unplanned rapid urbanization taking place in most  developing countries including Bangladesh. Rapid growth of slums is an obvious part of unplanned urbanization. Bangladesh experienced the fastest urbanization compared to other middle income countries, with 6% growth rate per year since independence (UPPR, UNDP, 2011). The urban population was 30% in 532 urban centers (2001), which is likely to be 50 million by 2021 and may exceed 60 million by 2031 (CUS 2008, Bangladesh Urban Forum, 2011).

Urbanization is a process of development. However, unplanned urbanisation creates a lot of pressures on urban infrastructural services, like, water, sanitation, electricity, drainage facilities, etc. (UPPR, UNDP 2011) as they are often excluded from urban planning and development interventions. Besides pressures on infrastructural services, such rapid growth of unplanned urbanization and slums creates social problems that resulting in suffering for the city dwellers and urban governments.

The urban poverty rate is 21.3 %, while, 7.7% are extreme poor (HEIS, 2010). However, the urban extreme poor, mostly migrated from rural to urban areas are the main sources of laborers in different urban sectors and the urban economy now contributes 60% of the national economy. But slum dwellers suffer from multiple problems of housing, employment, water and sanitation. So, planned urbanization inclusive with the slum dwellers and low income settlement people is very vital.

participatory planningPractical Action has worked in 82 communities (slums) across 6 cities in Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka from 2012-2016 with partners following a participatory planning process in collaboration with municipalities. A regional workshop was held on 28 February 2016 in Dhaka to mark the end of the project by sharing its learning and experiences, which, showed remarkable changes on the empowerment and living conditions of the extreme poor.  The project was funded by the European Union and UK Aid.

This blog is mainly based on the experiences and learning of Bangladesh (Faridpur and Jessore Municipalities). It is relevant to mention that the IUD-I project was implemented in Faridpur Municipality only from 2006-2009. The project covered 30 slums (24 in Faridpur and 06 in Jessore) with 10,962 people (5511 female and 5451 male). Most of them are day laborers, van/rickshaw pullers, cleaners, sweepers, pit-emptiers. Of those, a good number of the laborers are engaged in cleaning for the municipality, hospital/clinics and other Government offices. Open defecation is 6% and 8% respectively, in Faridpur and Jessore Municipalities.

Participatory planning is an effective tool in mobilizing, engaging and integrating a wide range of stakeholders including community, GO-NGOs and municipality.  It followed steps like community mobilization, formulation of a Settlement Improvement Committee (SIC) formulating Community  Action plans (CAPs) and building a Community Improvement Federation (CIF) in streamlining them in the governance, planning and delivery process of infrastructural services. SIC representatives formulated the Community Action Plan (CAP)/year based on assessment and their priority ranking with existing resources, those included identifying community problems, needs, actions and strategies for implementation. SICs, from the needs assessment, their prioritizing, validation and formulating CAP, engaged representatives of municipalities and relevant stakeholders and finalized the CAPs.


The process has made the opportunity of participation and empowered the urban poor to reach inclusive urban governance. The CIF (with representatives of all SICs) is now empowered to represent and influence the municipality, district and upazila level Local Government Institutions, IGA, education and other support services. Representatives of SICs and CIFs actively participate in municipality level meetings of TLCC, PRAP, GAP and WMSC and contribute to decision making process including government relief operations during disasters like floods, winter clothes distribution, etc.

waste collectorsFor the first time in the history of Jessore Municipality, the socially excluded Harijan community participated in a budget sharing meeting. All CAPs formulated by SICs are compiled and again shared and validated by the representatives of municipality, which they integrate with their own plan and make inclusive budget allocation.

Under PRAP and Gender Action Plan (GAP), the Faridpur Municipality has approved BDT 1,72,00,000.00 for urban poor people for infrastructure services in the fiscal year 2014-15, which, is higher than the previous allocation  of BDT 1,45,70,000.00 of 2013-14 and BDT 1,22,00,000.00 of 2012-13, which reveals the increased investment by the Municipality for the people living in urban slums, their participation and representation in urban governance and contributing to the urban development process. The Mayor of Faridpur has given a room for CIF Secretariat at the Municipality building, which has strengthened poor peoples’ participation and empowerment in inclusive urban governance process and contributing to the urban development, spporting SDG Goal 11 that specifically focus on inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for integrated and sustainable human settlement. The process is adopted in Government UPPR and UGIIP II projects, which need to be scaled up and mainstream throughout the entire urban governance process to the cause of a more safer city and urban lives of the city dwellers.

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