Recognizing Slums in Bangladesh

Oct 3, 2013

Settlement Land Map of Comilla. Photo: UNDP Bangladesh.

Approximately 40 million people in Bangladesh live in urban areas, out of which 21 per cent live below the poverty line. This means that more than eight million Bangladeshis live on less than USD 2 a day. Such poor urban households live in inadequate and insecure houses, often in unsanitary conditions and face difficulties in accessing employment, made worse by having little or no social protection. Further, they have limited access to adequate health services and education opportunities. With one of the highest urbanization rates in Asia, the situation continues to worsen for an increasing number of urban poor in Bangladesh. Despite this, urban poverty goes largely “unrecognized” in Bangladesh as the misperception that addressing it might result in increased migration to the cities still persists. The identity of Bangladeshi slum dwellers as rightful citizens is therefore continuously challenged. 

In September 2013, however, the Mayors of Barisal, Gopalgonj and Khulna took a step forward in recognizing and addressing urban poverty in Bangladesh by officially endorsing the Settlement Land Maps of their respective towns which include neighborhoods of poor and extremely poor urban households (‘slums’). 

What are Settlement Land Maps?

Using GIS maps produced with the support of UPPR, slum community members mark the low-income settlements and plots of vacant land in the wards in which they live. Once the settlements and vacant land have been marked on the maps, trained community members assess the poverty level of each of the mapped settlements. Using a set of sixteen indicators - such as access to water, electricity and roads - the settlement is categorized as extremely poor, poor or non-poor. Details on the vacant plots of land - such as their size, topography and potential use - are also recorded in case a slum settlement is destroyed or evicted and alternative living space is needed. To date, Settlement Land Maps have been successfully prepared in 29 towns across Bangladesh, and five have been officially endorsed by the respective Mayors. 
Why does this matter?

By endorsing the maps where slums are included, the Mayors are allowing their inclusion in the Town Master Plans and therefore, allowing future inclusion of those slum dwellers in government programs like any other citizen in Barisal, Khulna and Gopalgonj. Further, the SLMs will help policy-makers gain an improved understanding of the scale and nature of urban poverty in these areas, enabling them to design better and more informed policies and accurately direct resources for infrastructure and services to those who need it the most.

Requests for maps interested organizations should be directed to