Leveraging Urbanization in Bangladesh

September 24, 2015

Bangladesh Highlights from the World Bank Report, Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia: Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Livability


Although they have made progress, South Asian countries have struggled to make the most of the opportunity urbanization provides them to transform their economies to join the ranks of richer nations in both prosperity and livability, according to a new World Bank report – Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia: Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Livability.

Difficulty in dealing with the pressures that urban populations put on infrastructure, basic services, land, housing and the environment lie at the heart of the relative lack of livability of the region’s cities. That fosters what the report calls “messy and hidden” urbanization that constrains the concentration of economic activity that could bring about faster improvements in prosperity.

Here are 10 key findings for Bangladesh made by the report:

  • Bangladesh experienced faster urbanization than South Asia as a whole between 2000 and 2010.  Over that period, the share of its population living in officially classified urban settlements increased by 1.69 percent a year, which was on a rough par with the pace of urbanization experienced by today’s developed countries in the late 19th century. Yet Bangladesh’s pace of urbanization still falls short of the pace in the East Asia and Pacific region since 2000.
  • In 2010, 21.3 percent of Bangladesh’s urban population lived below the national poverty line, while, in 2009, almost 62 percent of the urban population lived in slums.  The existence of poverty and slums reflects messy urbanization.
  • According to the Agglomeration Index, an alternative measure of urban concentration, the share of Bangladesh’s population living in areas with urban characteristics in 2010 was 45.7 percent.  This compares to an urban share of the population based on official definitions of urban areas of almost 28 percent, suggesting the existence of considerable hidden urbanization. 
  • South Asia is home to a growing number of multicity agglomerations, defined as a continuously lit belt of urbanization containing two or more cities, each of which had a population of at least 100,000 living within its administrative boundaries in 2010. In 1999, there were 37 such agglomerations in South Asia; in 2010, there were 45. Bangladesh saw the birth of its first two agglomerations – the Dhaka agglomeration (Dhaka and Rupganj) and the Brahmanbaria agglomeration (Brahmanbaria and Bhairab).
  • South Asia is home to six of the world’s 29 megacities (those with populations of at least 10 million): Dhaka, Delhi, Mumbai, Karachi, Kolkata, and Bangalore.
  • Dhaka ranked highest among Bangladesh districts on the report’s “prosperity index,” a new metric of subnational performance that measures success in achieving low levels of extreme poverty, high productivity and strong dynamism.  Dhaka earned a “strong” rating, the index’s second highest level.  The ranking means Dhaka outperformed the country average and represents a case of positive relative performance. Kushtia was ranked as “average.”
  • Dhaka still dominates Bangladesh’s economy, but the country’s most important industry – its garment industry – has been shifting out of the city’s core and into its districts neighboring the city. While the information and communications technology sector is an emerging cluster within the city, it remains small and has not yet filled the void left by the garment industry. 
  • While nighttime lights data indicates that economic growth was rapid on the periphery of Dhaka between 1999 and 2010, the city’s urban core has stagnated as it has struggled with pressures on infrastructure, basic services, land, housing and the environment. 
  • The 2015 livability index of the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Dhaka 139 out of 140 cities, ahead of only Damascus. Delhi was the highest ranked of the six South Asian cities in the Index at 110, followed by Mumbai (115), Kathmandu (125), Colombo (127), Karachi (135) and Dhaka.
  • Bangladesh’s expanding urban populations presents it with a considerable affordable housing challenge.  In the best case scenario in which urban population density remains constant, meeting this challenge will require expanding the amount of developable urban land by just over 7,000 km2 – or almost 45 percent – between 2010 and 2050.

For more information on the report go to:

About the World Bank Group

The World Bank Group plays a key role in the global effort to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. It consists of five institutions: the World Bank, including the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA); the International Finance Corporation (IFC); the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Working together in more than 100 countries, these institutions provide financing, advice, and other solutions that enable countries to address the most urgent challenges of development. For more information, please visit,, and

Visit us on Facebook: