The epigraphic record of the famous saint Hazrat Shah Makdhum (Rh.) Dargah alludes the historical importance of Rajshahi, which goes back to at least 1634 A.D. The city was given importance in 1825 after the shifting of district administrative headquarters from Natore to Rajshahi mainly due to better communication from Calcutta through the Padma river. The city was mainly selected as an industrial unit of silk production. There was a government college and a sericulture training school in the city. Rajshahi Municipality was one of the first municipalities in Bangladesh, which was established in 1876 and was up graded as Rajshahi City Corporation in 1987.
However, most of the public buildings were severely damaged by the earthquake of the 12th of June 1897 but with the demand of time Medical College, University, Engineering University, Radio Centre, Airport and many other important established was founded in the city. As a result, in many ways importance of the city increased and the city had started to grow in an unplanned way, especially the after the post war population boom. Therefore, Rajshahi Town Development Authority (RTDA) was established in October, 1976 by Ordinance no. 78 with an aim to develop the city in a planned and sustainable way and also to coordinate all types of development related work. RDA has started its activity with a area of 127 sq.km, which has been increased to 364.19 sqkm. today.
Organizational Structure and Functions of RDA
Chairman, appointed by the government, is acting as the head of the organization and is empowered to take administrational and financial matter for the well-being of RDA under the reference of a corporate body. This body is formed with eight ex-officer members and three non-official members appointed by the government. As a city planning & development Authority RDA had started its activity with following major aims:
01. To prepare a master plan for Rajshahi city and its adjacent areas and to ensure proper implementation of the plan.
02. To control all kinds of illegal construction & development works RDA ensures proper implantation of National Building Code and Building Construction Act.
03. To ensure sustainable use of land through proper implementation of land use zone.
Based on the differences in functions RDA has formed six different wings, named as Administrative, Planning, Engineering, Authorized, Estate and Account section. Each wing or section has its own prescribed tasks to implement. More than 105 employees are working here to provide RDA’s services in a better way.
Achievements and Future Development Plan of RDA
1. Preparation of Master Plan for RajshahiCity
q 1984 Master Plan
The main goal of Rajshahi Development Authority is city planning and also to ensure planned growth and development of the city. Just after establishment, in 1978 the Authority has started to prepare its first Master Plan for 20 years. The Master plan was finalized and was started to implement from 1984 for the area of 127 sq.km.
q RMDP 2004-2024
After invalidation of the first Master Plan, RDA has prepared a new Master Plan named Rajshahi Metropolitan Development Plan (RMDP), 2004-2024. During preparation of this plan for the first time in Bangladesh, RDA has used modern planning techniques and tools like GPS, total Station. RTK, GIS software. A detailed socio-economic, transport and physical feature survey along with contour and RL record. All of the collected data and information was preserved as a data bank in digital format.
2. Residential Projects
Addressing the citizen’s habitation problem Rajshahi Development Authority has taken a moderate number of planned residential area development projects. In one hand implementation of these residential projects helps to reduce residential problems of the city on the other hand, it also encourages the private entrepreneur to develop planned residential area.
Residential projects that RDA has implemented so far are, Padma Residential Area (Total no. of Plots 565), Parizat Residential Area (Total no. of Plots 56), Chayanir Residential Area (Total no. of Plots 224), Chandrima Residential Area (Total no. of Plots 400), Mohananda Residential Area (Total no. of Plots 97).
To meet the increasing demand for planned residential project RDA has some future residential projects. Those are, Banolata Residential Area, Baronai Residential Area, Chayabithi Residential Area, Prantik Residential Area and Akash-Leena Residential Development Projects.
3. Infrastructural Development Project
Communication is the prior term for the development. On this vision RDA has construct and widened many major roads, which are, Natore to Nawabganj Road (0.76 km.), Greater Road Extension Road (3.52 km.), Widening of Road from Kalpona Cinema Hall to Sericulture Sells Center (1.50 km.) and Construction of Road from Greater Road to Rajshahi Bypass (3.41 km.). RDA also has about to finish the construction of another very demanding Road from Shaheb Bazar Zero point to Gourhanga junction
Beside these, construction of another important Road from Rajshahi Court to Darusa junction has started and would be finish by June, 2016. Other two roads from RUET to Rajshahi Bypass and Airport Road to Suchoron junction have been approved by the MInistry of Housing and Public Works and waiting for the approval of EC-NEC.
4. Commercial Area Develo-pment Projects
To extend the commercial facilities of Rajshahi city the role of RDA is Pioneer. So far RDA has constructed Banolata Commercial Area (Total no. of plots – 117) and RDA market (Total no. of shops -724). With the new concept of government Public private partnership (PPP) RDA have successfully implemented Pubali, Godhuli, Mohananda and RDA’s Southern Corner Markets.
5. Bus and Truck Terminal Projects
To provide better communication facilities to the citizen RDA has constructed the first Bus Terminal in Rajshahi in 1990 in 4.11 acres of land. Due to increase of total number of transport modes RDA has constructed a new inter-district bus terminal in Barobangram mouza of the city on 7.41 acres of land with a capacity of 600 buses. Moreover, in 1998 RDA has also contrasted a truck terminal with a capacity of 500 trucks. Total area of the truck terminal is 5.00 acres.
6. Recreation Project
To provide recreational facilities RDA has made some parks, which are, Shahid Kamaruzzaman Park, Eco-children Park. RDA also has a plan to develop the Padma river bank area as major recreational zone for local and national level.
RMDP: A remarkable initiative for planned and sustainable development of Rajshahi city
Rapid urbanization is taking place all over the world through rapid population growth. Bangladesh has been experiencing rapid urbanization after independence in 1971. About 25% of its population currently lives in urban areas. If the current trends of urban population growth continue, more than half of the population of Bangladesh will be urban by the year 2030 (ADB 2007). Rajshahi City is the headquarters of the Rajshahi Division comprising the northwestern districts of Bangladesh. From a small city with population of only about 40,000 in 1951, Rajshahi has currently grown into the fourth largest city in Bangladesh. The conservative estimates of population projection shows that in 2011 the total population of Rajshahi city was around 0.67 million and it will reach approximately 0.87 million in the year of 2021 (RDA, 2004).
Rapid urbanization in Rajshahi is taking place since the partition of India in 1947. However, most of this urbanization is taking place in an unplanned way leading to unemployment, increase of urban poor, development of settlement in marginal lands and hazard prone areas, living in densely populated unstable buildings in slums and squatters, absence of basic services and facilities, etc. To cope with the changing situation in urban area due to rapid urbanization city level physical development planning and its practices is the utmost need to guide and ensure the orderly development of settlements for sustainable urban development.
Planning initiatives for Rajshahi City in the past
The Urban Development Direc-torate (UDD) took the first initiative for developing Rajshahi city in a planned and guided way in 1968. The plan termed as “Development Plan for the City of Rajshahi” was basically a master plan indicating the broad land use category and future road network of the city. However, the plan was not materialized because of several reasons.
These include, i) the survey and investigation procedure took long time but the physical development of the city had not enough time to wait. As a result, the proposed broad outline of the plan had lot of limitations and very limited scope to implement; ii) there was no caretaker to execute the development proposals since, the plan the plan was not handed over to any of the local agency, like Municipal Corporation or Public Works Department to implement; and iii) the change in the political situation of the region (i.e. the independence of Bangladesh in 1971).
In October 1976, the government has created “Rajshahi Town Development Authority (RTDA)” which is re-named as “Rajshahi Development Authority (RDA)” later on with the mandate to ensure growth and development of Rajshahi city in a planned and sustainable way.
In 1984, RDA took the initiative to prepare the second master plan for Rajshahi city jointly with UDD and United Nations Center for Housing and Settlement (UNCHS) to ensure the guided and controlled development of RDA administrative area of 177 sq. km. The major objectives of the plan were, i) to provide good living conditions for its population; ii) to promote urban activities and the local economy through judiciously devised land use pattern, road network and infrastructure; and iii) to standardized housing area plans to conform to anticipated economic conditions, that is, limiting housing subsidy. However, the 1984 master plan was not fully implemented and could hardly achieve its objectives as it was virtually an indicative and incomplete plan with many limitations that failed to ensure the growth and development of Rajshahi city in a planned way.
Preparation of Rajshahi Metropolitan Development Plan
Since Rajshahi city was developing in an unplanned way in the past resulting various inconveniences for its inhabitants due to the rapid urbanization as well as the lack of proper implementation of the previous master plans, RDA took another initiative to prepare a new master plan for an area of about 364.19 sq. km in 2001.
The plan termed “Rajshahi Metropolitan Development Plan (RMDP)” was initiated not only to over-come all limitations and weakness for previous master plans but also for providing infrastructure to ensure an acceptable quality of life for present and future Rajshahi city through a dynamic planning procedure. Keeping the vision “Create a better Livable Space without sacrificing interest of Future Generation” ahead, RMDP was prepared for 20 years period (2004 – 2024). It is four-tire plan including Strategic Plan, Structure Plan, Master Plan, and Detailed Area Development Plan.
Strategic Plan – the 20 years plan mainly explains the strategies or policies drawn for an urban center development over a longer period. Assuming the annual population growth rate of 1.47% strategic plan suggested to focus on, optimum use of existing urban land through proper infilling of intra urban vacant land.
Structure Plan – a broad brush, indicative, and open-ended plan that describing broad policy framework for actions and development, which would help to prepare subsequent lower level plans and development proposals. It shows the magnitude and the direction of urban growth as well as describes policy framework regarding various aspects of future city development in 25 Spatial Planning Zones (SPZ).
Urban Area Plan (Land Use Plan) – the third stage of the RMDP plan package and has been prepared within the policy framework of the Structure Plan. The Functional Master Plan is divided into two parts; Urban Area Plan and Extended Area Plan. It works as a tool, which would improve and guide future development Rajshahi. The aim of this 10 year plan (2004 – 2014) is to ensure optimum and best suitable use of the land in a compact way.
Detailed Area Development Plan – is the lowest tier in the four-level hierarchy envisaged in the RMDP plan package. While the Structure Plan and Master Plan deals with long-term and medium-term strategies respectively for the whole city, DADP deals with more detailed planning proposal for specific ‘sub-area’. It meant to provide specific and concrete proposal to meet existing immediate and short-term needs of a limited area in accordance with the strategies suggested in the higher level plans. Detailed Area Plan is basically a local level planning exercise through which land use policies, infrastructure and utility services are determined. Such planning approaches are utilized to control development in a desired direction.
Challenges and way forward
The haphazard and unplanned growth and development of Rajshahi city have reduced the actual competency and return of the area. Preparation RMDP is an important professional task in respect of critical land management system of the city. It is utmost needed to the proper implementation of RMDP in order to enhance road network, develop housing facilities, increase urban facilities, and industrial development. However, with the limited resources; lack of public awareness about the livable urban environment; lack of cooperation from other city-level development agencies; and political influence, the proper implementation of RMDP is a great challenge for RDA. To meet these challenges following issues are very important:
- Integrated development of city and its peripheral areas
- Coordination among all city-level development & service providing agencies
- Collaboration between government and non-government organizations
- Promotion of effective partnership with civil society and private sectors
- Increase of skilled manpower in plan implementation agencies
- Ensure the good urban governance in city development and service providing agencies
- Stop political interfere and influence of power full groups
- Proper enforcement of environmental laws and regulations
- Increase public awareness about the importance of environmental protection and also about the benefit of implementation of plan.
With limited resources and manpower Rajshahi Development Authority is working to achieve its vision “to make the city Green, Clean, livable and economically sustainable” through implementation of RMDP, 2004-2024. But being an autonomous body alone it is not possible for RDA to achieve its vision. To attain the vision RDA needs a strong co-ordination is needed between different development organization like, Rajshahi City Corporation, Roads & Highways, PWD, LGED, Zila Porishad etc.