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Resources, City Spotlights Narayanganj City Corporation

City Spotlight: Narayanganj City Corporation, Bangladesh

Situated at the confluence of the Shitalakhya and Buriganga rivers southeast of the capital, Dhaka, Narayanganj City Corporation is one of the most populous urban areas in Bangladesh, with a population of more than seven million. The local government was created only in 2011, following a merger of three former municipal corporations. It has a rich industrial and trading heritage and is now a major production hub for textiles and garments.

Narayanganj City Corporation joined the Strong Cities Network in 2016 and has since contributed to regional and global events including workshops in Delhi (India) and Strong Cities’ Fourth Global Summit in New York City in September 2023. Narayanganj currently sits on Strong Cities’ International Steering Committee, represented by Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy.

What is the local government concerned about?

Narayanganj’s textile industry attracts a substantial migrant labour force largely from within the country. Coping with the size, density and cohesion of a constantly fluctuating demographic poses a number of economic, social and infrastructural challenges as the City seeks to deliver a wide variety of public services. For example, the City has struggled to keep up with its urban planning, waste management, pollution control, road development, education and other basic services amidst the fast pace of industrial and population growth. These development challenges also impact the City’s ability to address other challenges it faces, including those related drug addiction, social welfare, slum development and management, the protection of religious minorities as well as maintaining social cohesion between permanent and temporary residents. Disaster management, public health and climate-related challenges also demand significant attention from the local government and are recognised by city officials as key to the long-term resilience of local communities.

Responding to such an influx in population is considered the biggest challenge in our office nowadays, because it becomes very hard to formulate a plan to respond to their needs… and to support them equally as compared to permanent residents.

Moinul Islam, Chief Urban Planner, Narayanganj City Corporation

How is the local government responding?

Narayanganj City Corporation has launched multiple development initiatives to tackle poverty and improve local infrastructure and public safety and enhance social inclusion. Some of these initiatives are led solely by the City, while others are supported by international aid programmes and/or Bangladesh’s central government. Ongoing efforts include:

Community engagement and inclusion

As the only female mayor of a City Corporation in Bangladesh, women’s empowerment and participation is of particular importance for Mayor Ivy. Nine council seats in Narayanganj are reserved for women and women’s participation is one of five key pillars of ongoing initiatives such as the Urban Governance and Infrastructure Improvement Project (UGIIP) supported by the Asian Development Bank and the Narayanganj Green and Resilient Urban Development Project.  

The City Corporation has also created spaces to facilitate broader engagements with and local communities. This includes weekly public meetings open to the whole city where residents can raise their concerns directly with local government officials, and where the City can raise awareness of the actions it is already taking to address the challenges it is aware of.

The mayor and city councillors also hold regular meetings within specific wards, which are similarly open the public and provide residents with direct access to the mayor and other city leaders. Here, they can field concerns and challenges that are raised and then refer them to responsible departments within the local government. This includes relevant standing committees like those for law and order, women and child development, youth and sports, health and welfare and education. This dedicated effort within specific wards helps the City reach historically marginalised communities.

Further, through these community engagement efforts, and by ensuring that officials and representatives are responsive to concerns raised, the City Corporation aims to build trust, improve the inclusion and participation of women and minorities and create effective mechanisms for understanding community challenges, addressing tensions and promoting social cohesion.

Strengthening governance

Developing institutional good governance is also a priority for the City, as outlined in its Citizen Charter, particularly to foster financial accountability and sustainability, tackle corruption and promote transparency. To that end, the administration has made it common practice to publish on the City’s website development plans across a wide array of different initiatives and include in them costings and financial audit data. Beyond this, the City promotes access to services and information, including through an ongoing digitalisation effort and the expansion of an online portal via the City’s website. The City also offers training around good governance practices to newly elected or appointed councillors.

All of these efforts serve to build trust between residents and the Mayor and local government. Transparency around budgets and resource allocation helps residents understand what the City is already investing in and where the gaps lie, which they can then raise with officials in the above-mentioned public meetings.

Dr. Salina Hayat Ivy, Mayor of Narayanganj, Bangladesh, speaking at the Fourth Global Summit (September 2023)

What’s next?

Mayor Ivy and other officials from Narayanganj have outlined the following as areas they would like to continue prioritising over the coming months, including with support from Strong Cities Network and its relevant guides:

  • Developing dedicated programming to strengthen social cohesion and inclusion;
  • Further improving governance and institutional capacity;
  • Enhancing national-local cooperation on social cohesion;
  • Scaling efforts to address poverty and reduce inequality, including gender equality, to ensure all residents feel the City is providing for them and that their voices are heard; and
  • Improving disaster resilience, both environmental and human, in recognition of the impacts of climate and other disasters on social cohesion.

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