A Crisis in Governance: Sustainable Urban Solid Waste Management in Bangladesh

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Rapid urbanization is taking place especially in developing countries. Globally, in 1985, 41 percent of the world population lived in urban areas, and by 2015, the proportion is projected to rise to 60 percent. Of the urban population, 68 per cent will be living in the cities of low-income and lower middle-income countries. An important feature of the urbanization of the developing world is the rapid growth of cities and metropolitan areas. Between 1990-5 Asia’s urban population, for example, has grown at an average rate of 3.2 per cent, with just 0.8 per cent growth in rural areas. This picture signals that urban population in developing countries has outstripped the capacity of city administrators to provide and expand infrastructure, deliver services and/or devise and maintain regulatory mechanisms. Consequently, according to the report of the United Nations Center for Human Settlements (UN-Habitat), quite a large number of urban dwellers live in ‘life-threatening’ conditions of poverty and environmental degradation, and the number is supposed to swell significantly by 2025. One such problem is the increased production of solid waste. As in many developing countries, solid waste management (SWM) is an acute urban problem in Bangladesh. In urban Bangladesh, the conservancy department of the city corporation/municipality is responsible for SWM.

Nearly 50 percent of the daily generated garbage remains uncollected in the cities of Bangladesh. It means a ‘gap’ exists between the daily generation and collection of solid waste in the cities of Bangladesh, which takes a toll on urban governments for its sustainable solution. In spite of utilizing public resources, the city governments have apparently failed to provide satisfactory conservancy services to its users. Had this been because of resource problems or technical difficulties alone, their resolution would have been easier. It is evident that later this is not the case. Chittagong City Corporations, for example, has the means and resources to do its job. So far it has failed to demonstrate that it has the commitment or capacity to perform its functions effectively and efficiently, which emanates from its low quality of governance. Evidence suggests that government initiatives alone cannot solve the problem of solid waste. As a result, public-private partnerships and voluntary community initiatives emerge across the country for its sustainable solution.

Good governance is a product of the quality of decisions and actions by public officials and enhances the trust of the public in the polity and its leaders. The latter, especially, signifies the importance of a nexus between the state and the civil society and between the state and the market. A governance crisis emerges from the tensions and deterioration of such nexus.

This paper critically analyzes the major constrains for the delivery of conservancy services in urban Bangladesh and examines whether or not ineffective SWM system stems from the crisis of governance. It argues that urban government has to share the conservancy service delivery responsibility with private and community-based organizations that have succeeded in reaching the service users and that an effective partnership is indispensable for the meaningful urban governance in Bangladesh.

Keywords: Governance, Solid Waste Management, Bangladesh
Stream: Politics, Public Policy and Law
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr Shahjahan Bhuiyan

Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration, Kazakhstan Institute of Management,  Economics and Strategic Research (KIMEP)
Almaty, Kazakhstan

Dr Shahjahan Bhuiyan teaches in the Department of Public Administration at Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Research (KIMEP), Almaty. He holds a PhD in Development Studies from Bonn International Graduate School of Development Research at the University of Bonn. He has published 25 articles in leading national and international journals and is the author of the book Benefits of Social Capital: Urban Solid Waste Management in Bangladesh, Munster: LIT Verlag, 2005. Prior to joining KIMEP, he taught public administration in the University of Chittagong and Islamic University, Kushtia, Bangladesh.

Ref: I08P0812