Bangladesh, home to nearly 163 million people is among the most populous countries in the world with about 25 million people living in abject poverty equating to more than 1,200 people per square kilometer. According to a World Bank study, the capital Dhaka is rapidly growing, drawing in an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 poor migrants every year providing key labor for the city’s industries and services often migrating due to the effects of climate change, river erosion or loss of livelihoods. The city of Dhaka contains more than 20 million people of which only 15 percent have their own house.

Since 2012, Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh has been working to increase the resilience of slum communities in Dhaka through the completion of vulnerability assessments, community action planning, urban informal settlement mapping, water and sanitation infrastructure, housing repairs and capacity building. However, challenges experienced by slum communities, such as the lack of access to government services and security of tenure, require the collaboration of numerous stakeholders across the city. Habitat Bangladesh was a primary source of motivation for the formation of the Urban INGO forum which now brings together 24 international organizations to discuss and contribute to urban development in Bangladesh.

To improve urban planning and development initiatives Habitat Bangladesh initiated mapping in selected informal settlement areas in Dhaka. Through the establishment of an information system utilizing stakeholder engagement, Habitat Bangladesh completed “urban informal settlement mapping” and developed a needs-based Geographic Information System (GIS) map and database.  The database and maps are accessible to all urban stakeholders as a basis for their respective programming, advocacy and policy initiatives and promotes optimum resource allocation.  

A series of activities have been undertaken to achieve the goals of the project. These include developing data collection tools and a guideline for urban mapping, testing and sharing the tools with urban stakeholders, collecting comprehensive data from 25 slums of 2 Wards under the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), and making them available to use by the urban stakeholders. The geo-database contains various physical and socio-economic information from the slums, which can be used to analyze and gain insight into the residents and conditions of the slums.  This is all required for government policy decisions and undertaking holistic development plans for slums and the urban poor. A participatory approach has been ensured while designing and implementing the project that involved the Urban INGO Forum Bangladesh, Water, and Sewerage Authority (WASA), the DNCC Authority and the community representatives from the respective slums. The web-based database is being maintained and updated by DNCC and has been made accessible to all the relevant stakeholders.

In order to complete the informal social mapping and to develop the database, Habitat Bangladesh partnered with the Center for Environmental & Geographic Information Services (CEGIS) who are experienced in GIS mapping and have all the required expertise for developing the database. CEGIS in partnership with Center for Urban Studies (CUS) carried out Urban Slum Mapping of six City Corporations in 2006, conducted detailed ward-level mapping of slum settlements in the six city corporations in 2005 and 2010. However, those previous studies did not include socio-economic information integrated with the geographic data and thus the study results could not be used to make any holistic analysis to generate a complete scenario.

Habitat Bangladesh has bought a domain for the GIS maps and database, purchased satellite image (3D), provided orientation to the users of GIS database and maps conducted by the consultant and provided training on database maintenance. 

This project provides a user-friendly service facility that generates comprehensive data and GIS mapping of social and physical characteristics and vulnerabilities, mapping of services provided by organizations, land ownership and management, livelihood characteristics of slum dwellers, housing characteristics, and demographic information. This is a unique project because it contributes to the on-going GIS initiatives in the country using technology, citizen engagement strategies and collaboration in developing a GIS database and mapping.

Urban development is one of the concentrations of the Habitat Bangladesh program. Starting with a small development project in one slum in the capital city of Dhaka, the program has been expanded to the city of Khulna, in southern Bangladesh. Habitat Bangladesh has partnered with eight stakeholders including Government, Non-Government organizations, and institutions for its urban development program and is playing a leading role in this sector.

Learn more about the urban development program of Habitat Bangladesh here