The number of slum dwellers in Bangldesh has been increasing sharply over the past 20 years. The urban slum population is 60%, a higher figure than for India or Pakistan. In urban areas around 90% of them are living on privately-owned land, where they have no formal property rights and are vulnerable to eviction. The UN Development programme (UNDP) claims that at least 60,000 people suffered evictions in Dhaka between 2006 and 2008. However, slum dwellers are becoming more organised and have had some success in slowing the rate of evictions.
South Molavi Para was a long established slum in the city of Gopalganj. Though landlords sold plots to people, the land wasn't actually their's to sell. It was government land, and in 2009 the Prime Minister wanted it for a personal project, the development of a sports facitlity to honour her late brother. The residents were given 24 hours to get out before the bulldozers arrived on site.
The project Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction had been investing in upgrading the South Molavi Para slum. The project workers were able to bring together the displaced residents and help them mobilise to pressure the prime minister for a new allocation of land. A suitable site of 1.7 hectares was then found that was in public ownership. A 99 year lease of the site was agreed at a nominal charge. Although the acquisition of the land took 8 months, the subsequent development proved more protracted, and the houses have been built without utilities. Crucially though the former residents of South Molavia Para have been able to purchase their houses on 20 year mortgages.
While enthusiasts have argued that this is a model that can be replicated elsewhere, critics say that urban land in Bangladesh is now so expensive that government will not have much appetite for cheap disposal of sites to the displaced urban poor.
Bangladesh is one of the most rapidly urbanising countries in the world, with urbanisation running as high as 7% per annum.