Rajshahi metropolitan development plan: Means of implementation

The Rajshahi Town Develo-pment Authority (RTDA) was established in 1976 for the formulation and execution of plans and schemes for the development of Rajshahi Town and certain areas in its vicinity. Initially the jurisdiction of RTDA was 127 square kilometer including the Rajshahi Municipality (presently Rajshahi City Corporation).  The present jurisdiction of RTDA is about 364 sq. km, which encircles Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC), Naohata and Katakhali Municip-ality, 12 Unions of Paba, Puthia and Charghat Upazilas.

After the establishment of Rajshahi Development Authority (RDA) in 1976 a master plan was prepared for the city in 1984 for an area of 127 sqkm. The physical development of Rajshahi city was guided by that plan till 2004. A new development plan with a package of Strategic Plan, Structure Plan, Functional Master Plan and Detailed Area Plan has been prepared for an area of 364 sqkm for 20 years for the planned development of the city and its vicinity. Proper implementation of the master plan will make the city of Rajshahi livable, healthy and will bring overall socio-economic development in the future.  The master plan will also act as the road map for the future development of the city. The process of execution needs to be carried out with care and efficiency in order to produce the best results.

RajshahiTown Development Authority Ordinance, 1976

It empowers the Authority to prepare General Development Plan, Functional Master Plan and to put restriction of land use for any purpose other than that laid down in any functional master plan approved by the government.

According to the RTDA Ordinance-

No person shall without the previous sanction of the Authority, construct any building within its jurisdiction and all such sanctions of building must be with the conformity of master plan for a planned and livable city as prescribed.

No plan or development scheme shall be prepared or executed by any person, local authority or government organization or institution for the area to which this ordinance extends except the concurrence of the authority.

No owner of any land or building shall be entitled to any compensation on acquisition of such land or building that is being used or constructed violating the permission or without having any permission of the Authority.

Though there being a clear provision in Land Acquisition Manual for taking clearance of land and structure and having the bar to give any compensation against unauthorized structure on acquisition, it is not abided by any organization concerned with acquisition within the jurisdiction of the authority. The ignorance of the provision of law resulting an excessive involvement of cost of acquisition as well as encouraging the illegal construction in the city.

Building Construction Act, 1952 (Amended in 1987, 1990, 2006)

It’s an Act to provide for the prevention of haphazard construction of buildings and excavation of tanks, which are likely to interfere with the planning of certain areas in Bangladesh.

There is an Authorized Officer in Rajshahi Town Development Authority and a Building Construction Committee appointed by the government by notification in the Official Gazette to exercise the function under the Building Construction Act for Rajshahi Metropolitan City Area (RMCA).

Under the provision of the Act, no person shall, without the previous sanction of an Authorized Officer or the Committee, construct or re-construct or make addition or alteration to any building within the RMCA. All private and public buildings are required to take sanction for construction under the Act.

If any building is being constructed or any addition to any building is being made without obtaining the sanction or in breach of any of the terms and conditions subject to which sanction was granted, the Authorized Officer may by a notice direct the owner, the occupier and the person in charge of the building to show cause. Considering the show cause and giving the person a reasonable opportunity of being heard, the Authorized Officer will direct the person in charge of the building to remove or dismantle the building or any portion thereof as specified in the order within the time as may be fixed by the Authorized Officer.

It is better to prevent the illegal construction than to dismantle. But from the time of notice to show cause to the specified order of dismantle of an illegal building the person in charge of that building generally does not stop the construction or the person could not be forced to stop it by any means. As a result, the construction gets its shape, which involves a lot of money, materials and manpower in favour of illegal construction and on the contrary it accounts the force, money and manpower to dismantle it. The total activities bear the economic loss of the nation in terms of national wealth. So, the Authorized Officer should have the authority to seize all the vehicles, instrument, materials used for construction of such illegal construction and should get the person arrested by a police officer without warrant, as the provision is already in practice under BC Act in the case of cutting of Hills.

Rajshahi Metropolitan Development Plan (2004-2024)

No person is allowed to use any land for any purpose other than that laid down in the functional master plan that is approved by the government. As per Bangladesh National Building Code occupancy and land use classification the future urban area has been grouped into 17 broad land classes with an aim to create a livable environment and enable current practice of development control mechanism.

The front road must not be less than 6.0 meeter in the developing areas and the use of proposed building must conform to the land provision prescribed in the Functional master Plan fulfilling the condition of BC Rules.

Airport restriction zone, low land, pond and drainage path, Padma bundh areas, cantonment, BDR security areas, Radio, Television, water treatment, power station sites  are the important areas where development restrictions should be strictly exercised.

Execution of any development plan, particularly, road is a difficult, expensive and time consuming matter. The right of way of the roads can be marked and the demarcation would receive community recognitions before actual development starts through land acquisition. This would make the execution of road schemes easier. With the execution of betterment fee RDA will be able to share a windfall gains received by land owners due to land value increase. This will also reduce pressure on government’s meager resource available for execution of urban development projects.

RDA should take up and implement housing and commercial area development projects to raise its income and aid development of planned areas in the city. Site and Services and Specialized Development projects as well as participatory type DAPs can be undertaken. The former will generate direct revenue while the latter will be a cost saving approach to development.

There were about 2237 water bodis (ponds) in the urban area of Rajshahi. Though it is suggested to retain only 204 water bodis in the master plan, but no specific policy is specified. According to the water body conservation act 2000, there is no bar to fill up the private ponds.

Retention of wetlands/water bodis and/or increase of planned water bodis are required for a livable city, as the natural water body, open space, park, playground. Conservation Act, 2000 does not support to restrict to fill up the private ponds. RCC should take over all the government water bodis or acquire the necessary water bodis in its jurisdiction and maintain those for better living environment of the city.

BangladeshNationalBuilding Code, 2006

It outlines the administrative requirements necessary for enforcement of the code and a professional practice-based certification, enforcement and administration structure. It specifies general planning and architectural requirements of buildings based on occupancy and fire resistance. It sets the standard of materials to be used in building construction and specifies the requirements governing structural design. It specifies safety of life during construction and minimization of construction hazards, constructional responsibilities regarding planning and control of the construction as well as the protection of public, worker and property and the requirements services like electrical, mechanical, acoustic, sanitary, water supply, gas supply. It also specifies the requirements for alteration of use of existing building.

A powerful construction regulatory body is urgently needed to prevent recurrence of this type of tragedies. There are three phases in the construction of a building-architectural designing, structural engineering and construction and if these phases are not followed maintaining the proper construction guidelines, the building can be collapsed or tilt.

The BNBC and Metropolitan Building Construction Rules make all the professionals like architects, planners, civil engineers and geo-technical engineers involved in the process of a building construction responsible for their respective role. But the responsibilities of the professionals are not clear under the law.

So, enactment of new laws of professional engineers providing a means of establishing responsibility for designing to the registered professional engineers and forming a powerful regulatory body to monitor all the phases of construction can prevent faulty constructions. The purpose of the professional engineers is to assure the competence of engineers performing work that may impact public safety.

It is also needed to create public awareness to follow proper construction guidelines to build risk-free buildings.

Coordination and execution of development activities

It is necessary that all the stakeholders should be involved in carrying out the implementation of plan proposal. As RDA is the custodian of all plan packages, it will also be the overall execution monitoring responsibility of the authority.

There are a large number of public sector agencies working in RajshahiCity and its environment. According to RTDA Ordinance, it is mandatory for other agencies to follow the city development plan prepared by RDA. The Ordinance empowers RDA to ask other urban management agencies to prepare their respective plans for city development. So it is important to form a coordination body comprising representative from all development and service agencies working in RDA area headed by chairman RDA. Representative from civil society and professional bodies can be included in the committee to ensure better governance. The committee should ensure that all kinds of development projects have been taken according to the proposal of the master plan.

Needs of institutional Capacity strengthening

RDA is not only the custodian of plan, it also directly implements a number of development projects and it should also monitor the implementation and development projects of other development agencies. It requires strengthening the existing capacity of RDA. The existing manpower position of the different sections should be substantially raised to handle future volume of work. To raise working capacity, training programs should be organized and modern working equipment should be installed.

The manpower in Planning section, Engineering section and Authorized Section are not adequate, so that the number of concern professionals will be raised. Otherwise it would be very difficult to monitor, revise or update the plans, execute development works and control the development like building constructions.

There is need to improve efficiency in planning and development control process and the working procedure in the sections of RDA. To ensure better accuracy digital measurement equipment and GPS should be used. Use of modern technology will increase efficiency in sections and finally expedite decision making process.

RDA: The SWOT Analysis

Rajshahi Development Authority  has been working under the Ministry of Housing & Public Works since its establishment on 19 October 1976. Since then, the organization has been working for the formulation and execution of plans and schemes for the development of Rajshahi City and certain areas in its vicinity.

Now, the time has come for analysis of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) for determining  that how far it has been able to implement its new master plan and for that what further initiatives it should take to improve its overall institutional capacity.

The SWOT are analysed here one after another.

Powers and duties of the authority are

t           Preparation of records of existing services, facilities, public utilities and of important public properties.

t           Preparation of general development plans, functional master plan.

t           Preparation and execution of development schemes.

t           Prevention of haphazard construction of buildings, excavation of tanks, etc.

The authority consists of the following members

t           A chairman appointed by the government

t           A Representative of City Corporation, the Deputy Commissioner, Rajshahi. Superintending Engineer, Public Works Department, Rajshahi, Roads and Highway Department, Rajshahi, Department of Public Health, Rajshahi, Director, BTTB, Rajshahi, Department of Health, Rajshahi.

t           Three other members appointed by the government for a particular term.

Manpower and working jurisdiction

t           Total 105 regular manpower working for the organization.

t           The working jurisdiction of the organization includes the entire Rajshahi City Corporation, Katakhali and Nawhata Municipalities and 12 other Union Councils with an area of about 364 sqkm.

Strengths

t           The organization is oriented to provide public services. Own office building and ancillary facilities.

t           The staffs are experienced with change and strategic planning and try to cooperate with each other in fulfilling their responsibilities.

t           Capable to provide services like approval of plans for building construction, control the haphazard construction and land use according to the master plan for the better development of the city.

t           Capable to develop and allocate the land for housing and commercial purpose with required service facilities and allocate the apartments to the people with reasonable price for better dwelling.

t           Some income generating projects bring fund to maintain the office and taking up own funded development projects.

t           Government provides reasonable fund for specific development projects in addition to its own.

t           The organization provides emphasis on developing and utilizing technology for making its activities more efficient as the service holders get the services in time.

t           All the service providing sections of the organization are equipped with computer network as it can serve the people in time.

t           The organization is connected with people by its web http\www.rdaraj.org.bd with the important information.

t           The organization is healthy with its technological position and working environment.

t           Political and social support for regulating growth of the city through this organization in addition to the city corporation is very high.

t           Employee benefit is secured by pension scheme after successful completion of service in the organization.

t           The organization has legal scope to collect betterment fee from the lands adjacent to the new roads developed by the organization for adding its values.

Weaknesses

t           Dependent on the government fund for the large scale service oriented project like Road construction.

t           Manpower is insufficient with regard to its working scope, volume and requirement. There is little accountability at various levels. Morale of officers is poor due to limited scope of promotion in different levels. The facilities of staff training and development planning are insufficient. There is no HRM department for analyzing, describing or specifying the jobs of different sectors of the organization. There is also a little pressure of trade union.

t           Lack of coordination with other concern development agencies made it difficult to implement the master plan.

t           To some extent, the organization is still with traditional service model in a context of changing communication and information needs. There is no service-counter for easy access to the service holders.

t           Having been the computer facilities, information of all the sections are not yet computerized for better service and planning. Internet access is very limited.

t           One of the most important tasks of the organization is to prevent the haphazard construction. For this challenging task, there should be a magistrate to direct or apply the force. But there being no magistrate in the organization and the task is being hampered. As a consequence, the organization sometimes failed to achieve the success of controlling the unauthorized construction.

t           Taxation source unpopular and not in its agenda to generate funds from that sources.

Opportunities

t           The RDA itself will grow farther with growth of the city.

t           The organization is the only custodian of total master plan for its jurisdiction that includes the Rajshahi City Corporation, Katakhali and Nawhata Municipalities and other 12 Union Councils. There is a wide scope of the organization to make and execute the master plan for making the city a planned one.

t           Scope to fulfill the housing demand of the people with reasonable cost based price. There is unique opportunity to make the city livable by controlling the structures according to the plan and policy of the government.

t           The organization is executing a number of infrastructural projects like construction of roads, developing housing and commercial area, establishing bus terminal, truck terminals, markets, parks, etc

Threats

t           The city corporation may try to absorb it, boosting political support. But then it will also do the same job as a branch to City Corporation, leaving some top officials.

t           Being the service oriented government organization political interference is the common phenomena in different contractual work. Sometimes manpower recruitment and selection and some regulating works are also interfered by the political power holders.

t           Government development fund may shrink.

t           Being the autonomous organization RDA can not exercise its full autonomy due to the excessive control of government over it.

Recommendations

Based on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats there are several areas on which the organization can focus in order to retain its position, superior performance and development. The organization can retain superior services and implementation of city plan ensuring the peoples participation in the planning policy. Planning and development should be partially with the conformity of the expectation of the citizen. For this, their active participation in certain stages are very effective, by which some hurdles of development activities can be removed. Coordination with the concern development agencies (like Rajshahi City Corporation, Katak-hali and Nawhata Municipalities, other Union Councils and local government agencies) should be ensured for smooth and economic development for the total township.

Conclusion

After establishment of Rajshahi Town Development Authority (RTDA) in 1976, a master plan including detailed area development plan has been made in 2004 for micro level areas that are likely to face development problems in the immediate future. But due to weak development control mechanism and no coordination among the relevant agencies the implementation of urban development and land uses are being apart from its planned form. So all those remarks explained in the boxes may be considered as recommendations for a better controlled liveable city like Rajshahi.

All the plans, developments, rules or laws and the organization(s) are for the safety, security and betterment for the people. So, for an effective achievement of the development the concern people should be informed it first. They should have the easy access to participate any implementation activity for its smooth running. People should know what is going to be done for whom and how. The concept is- people will do for themselves and the organizations will create the scopes and provide the services as needed.