Pro-poor planning in Bangladesh: a case study of Khulna city
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Under the current neoliberal regime, the numbers of urban poor are increasing in the rapidly-urbanising regions of the global South, including Bangladesh. Formal urban planning approaches derived from experience in the global North, have failed to tackle the consequent poverty challenges. This study aims to improve the planning system for tackling urban poverty in Bangladesh, using Khulna city as a case study. Following a review of the international literature on urban poverty and urban planning, a conceptual framework for the analysis of the case study is constructed. An investgiation of the poverty situation in Khulna through an analysis of secondary data and a field study of selected informal settlements is then undertaken followed by a detailed examination of current planning processes, institutional arrangements and policies through key actor interviews and an analysis of the current poverty situation. The literature shows that urban spatial poverty in the global South is characterised by deprivation, exclusion and deficiencies in individual capability and participation in decision-making. Rational communication in favour of the poor should be a crucial part of the planning process; neo-liberal development policies should be supplemented by a coordinated role for key urban actors, including public bodies; poverty-focused and just planning policies needs to be implemented to ensure justice for the poor and to tackle spatial and capaibility deprivation and exclusion. The Khulna case reveals that the actual planning practice fails to follow these established pro-poor principles since it is predominantly controlled by expert opinion and dependent on traditional survey-based analysis rather than on a participatory mechanism. Many actors are active in the spatial development of Khulna but their efforts are uncoordinated, with public agencies playing a limited plan-making role. Existing plans fail to provide policies to tackle major poverty problems such as the lack of formal employment and decent incomes, over-dependency on the informal economy, poor housing conditions, slum living and inadequate or sub-standard urban services. This study recommends that there should be new statutory laws to ensure meaningful participation of the poor, a strong role for the city corporation in engaging the poor in decision-making and a pro-active role for the planners in promoting awareness of planning issues among the poor. Effective collaboration requires enhanced powers of coordination for the planning authority and its strong cooperation with the city corporation. Local policy-makers should acknowledge national strategies for urban poverty elimination and a coherent planning policy for different administrative tiers, a reduction in economic-growth and market-biased policies and a statutory requirement to safeguard the interests of the poor. These findings contribute to broadening the knowledge base on pro-poor planning and development in developing countries in general.