Khulna, Central Business District. Credit: Irfan Shakil, Khulna University


This research report reviews and analyses Bangladesh’s planning and urban development policy documents for the last twenty years, identifying the key ideas and policies that have shaped the delivery of public services, paying particular attention to education and healthcare.

This report also presents city profiles for two of Bangladesh’s cities: Dhaka and Khulna.

This report is written by Khulna University.

Key messages

Bangladesh is one of the fastest urbanising countries in the world, with an average annual rate of urbanisation of 5.34 since 1974. It is anticipated that by 2050 country’s share of urban population will reach 56%.

In the face of rapid urbanisation, the number of cities in Bangladesh has increased by about 4.7 times in the last 40 years. The concentration of the urban population is rising in the large cities disproportionately compared to the rest of the cities.

The urbanisation process, however, has brought some of the most pressing urban sustainability challenges.

  • In 2011, 7.35 million people who account for 21% of the urban population live in poverty.
  • In 2014, the number of slums increased dramatically to 13935 from 2991 in 1997.
  • High density urban built-up areas are already putting pressure on extremely deficient urban facilities and services in the big cities.

Bangladesh has made notable improvement in addressing inequality concerning school enrolment and learning outcomes. There was a dramatic rise of net enrolment rate in primary school from 90% in 2000 to 98% in 2015. The net enrolment rate at the secondary level has also increased from 45% in 2000 to around 54% in 2015. Still, urban exclusion, gender inequity and spatial imbalance of service distribution are challenging the effective and inclusive education service provision.

Urbanisation process in Bangladesh has witnessed an improved health status of the urban people. The country has also achieved notable recognition in improving general health status in compare to many of its neighboring countries in South Asia, in terms of reduced maternal mortality, reduced under-5 mortality, reduced infant mortality rate. Still, per capita expenditure on health sector is only about 5 USD against the standard of 34 USD.

Both the health sector and education delivery system are highly centralized system, which often leads towards inefficiency and inequality of service provision.

Both Dhaka and Khulna are finding it difficult to provide urban services and quality built environment to their citizens. Dhaka’s challenge are linked to its inability to meet the demands of its growing population. However, Khulna is struggling because of limited investment and resources.  Both the cities have local level urban plans in place but Dhaka has a more forward-looking plan that includes sustainability agendas.

There are policy implementation challenges for both Dhaka and Khulna, which are mainly because of uncoordinated development projects and a lack of institutional and funding strength of the local planning and City Corporations in the cities.


The GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC) is an international consortium of nine research partners aiming to strengthen capacity to address urban, health and education challenges in neighbourhoods across fast-growing cities in Africa and Asia.

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SHLC is funded via UK Research and Innovation as part of the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

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