Following food, shelter is considered one of the most essential necessities for human survival. The state of homelessness deprives individuals of their self-respect and dignity
2023 has proven to be an exceptionally demanding year for urban economies, primarily due to the “Three C” challenges, which encompass the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, and the increasing frequency of climate-related disasters. These challenges are anticipated to continue exerting significant and far-reaching effects on the global economy. Notably, there has been a discernible decline in global economic growth, estimated at approximately 2.5%.
Given the substantial contribution of cities to their respective national economies, the future prosperity of many countries hinges on the ability of their urban centers to maintain productivity. We require cities that can adeptly absorb, recover from, and prepare for forthcoming economic crises.
Hence, this year, Global Habitat Day is observing on October 2, focusing on the theme of “Building resilient urban economies: Cities as engines of growth and resurgence.” The chosen theme for this year’s World Habitat Day holds significant relevance for Bangladesh, particularly due to its status as a densely populated nation undergoing rapid urbanization. According to projections from the United Nations, Bangladesh is expected to see its urban population rise to 60% by 2050.
Background of The World Habitat Day
The UN General Assembly established World Habitat Day in 1985 with the intention of promoting the idea that every individual has the right to safe and adequate housing, as well as to encourage discussions and actions on sustainable urbanization. The choice of the first Monday in October for this observance symbolizes our collective commitment to addressing the urgent global housing challenges. For countries like Bangladesh, it serves as an opportunity to inspire positive change and progress in housing and urban development.
Necessity of Shelter for Human Survival
Following food, shelter is considered one of the most essential necessities for human survival. The state of homelessness deprives individuals of their self-respect and dignity. Homelessness, regardless of a country’s socio-economic status, remains a persistent global issue. It may come as a surprise to many that developed countries, much like poorer ones, also have their share of homeless populations. In this regard, developing Bangladesh can be metaphorically compared to countries such as the USA, Canada, Denmark, France, or Germany. In most of these nations, volunteer organizations step in to assist homeless individuals, providing them with emergency meals and support.
In contrast to these private sector efforts, the government of Bangladesh has embarked on a massive project aimed at rehabilitating 2,778,085 people (from 555,617 families) through the Ashrayan project (1997 to July 2023). This project is managed by the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Prime Minister herself has provided homes to a total of 8,29,607 families through various Ashrayan projects and other initiatives. Within this project, approximately 4,148,035 individuals have been resettled in smaller dwellings.
Bangladesh Government’s Initiative for Homeless
The government of Bangladesh has undertaken The Ashrayan Project Initiative to tackle this problem.
The Ashrayan project was initiated by the Prime Minister to assist the coastal residents of Cox’s Bazar who were rendered homeless by the 1997 cyclone. Under the leadership of Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Ashrayan Project was first introduced.
The Ashrayan Project in Bangladesh, aimed at providing shelter for the homeless, is promoting inclusive development and significantly contributing to poverty reduction, thereby aiding the country in achieving at least eight of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Ashrayan Project has been appropriately termed the Sheikh Hasina Model for Inclusive Development and has heralded a new era of progress in the effort to create a poverty-free and hunger-free Bangladesh. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, through this project, has introduced a fresh approach to fostering growth and socio-economic development among the homeless population, guided by the principle of “Leaving no one behind.”
The Honourable Prime Minister, in her efforts to enhance this project, appropriately incorporated the Bangladesh Armed Forces to leverage their organizational capabilities, resourcefulness, and, most importantly, their commitment to the country. The Armed Forces Division serves as the top military organization responsible for executing this project in collaboration with the Prime Minister’s office. The ‘Project Section’ within the Operations and Plans Directorate of this Division acts as the central hub for coordinating activities among various Ministries and Service Headquarters.
Achievement of the Ashrayan project from 1997-2022
The number of barrack houses constructed and the number of families rehabilitated are as follows:
- From 1997 to 2002, a total of 4,721 barrack houses (each containing 10 units) were constructed, benefiting 47,210 families.
- From 2002 to 2010, 5,871 barrack houses (each containing 10 units) were built, providing housing for 58,703 families.
- From 2010 to 2022, 11,572 barrack houses (comprising both 10 and 5-unit structures) were constructed, accommodating 62,135 families.
- Between 2014 and 2019, houses were built on individuals’ own land, benefiting 153,853 families.
- In the period from 2010 to 2021, 580 houses were constructed for tribal people, and an additional 20 houses were built for the Rakhain community.
- With funding from Bangladesh Bank’s housing fund (Grihayon Tohobil), 1,100 families affected by cyclone Amphan and river erosion were provided with houses.
- A multi-storied building was constructed for the Khuruskul special Ashrayan project, benefiting 640 families.
- On the occasion of Mujibborsho, single houses were provided to families on two decimal of khas land, totaling 183,157 families.
In total, from 1997 to April 2022, the Ashrayan project successfully rehabilitated 507,398 families by providing housing in barrack houses, on owners’ land, and semi-pucca single houses on two decimal of khas land.
The Benefits of The Ashrayan Project
A thorough examination of the Ashrayan model has revealed that the project beneficiaries have seen a significant,
|Socio-economic Changes in Percentage
|Sense of security
|Improvement of social status
|Rise of living standard
|Ability to purchase new furniture
|Boost in positive behavior
|Growth in social harmony
|Capacity to acquire electronic devices
|Engagement in cultural activities
In conclusion, Bangladesh’s Ashrayan Project, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, stands as a remarkable example of inclusive development, contributing to poverty reduction and aligning with multiple Sustainable Development Goals. The project’s impact is evident in the significant improvements in the lives of its beneficiaries, underscoring the power of proactive government initiatives in addressing homelessness and fostering social well-being.