Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka with members of the Korail community in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo Binod Shresta/UN-HABITAT
On a visit to Bangladesh, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka on Monday appealed to authorities there not to evict slum dwellers but rather resettle them if the land they currently occupy is to be used for other purposes.
"Eviction is not the solution, it is the resettlement," she told reporters during a visit to Korail slum at Mahakhali in the city.
Her remarks came as eviction fear prevails among slum dwellers following an initiative taken by the Science and ICT ministry to establish an Information Technology village on the site as part of the government efforts to build a 'Digital Bangladesh'. Mrs. Tibaijuka listened attentively to the slum dwellers as they expressed fears of a possible eviction drive by authorities to accommodate the planned project.
'The proposal for setting up the IT village has already been sent to the Prime Minister's Office,' said Bangladesh Computer Council programmer Golam Sarwar, who accompanied the Executive Director.
Slum dwellers have been residing over the last three decades in the Korail slum on 100 acres of land belonging to the science and ICT ministry, Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB), and Public Works Department.
About 100,000 people, mostly victims of river erosion and poverty, have been living in shanties erected by local influential people. The UN does not support arbitrary eviction as such steps would not solve the problems of the government, because these people will create an informal settlement, said Mrs. Tibaijuka.
"If you are going to use the land, you cannot do it at the expense of the poor, because we are fighting poverty, not the poor. We are fighting slums, not slum dwellers," she said.
She said part of the land could be used for resettling the slum dwellers by constructing high-rise flats or they could be relocated for their betterment.
She also said the UN wants the government to have dialogues to reach a consensus, which will be a 'win-win' solution for all. The development partners will be there for assistance, she added.
Earlier, the slum dwellers told Mrs. Tibaijuka how a project 'Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction (UPPR)' in Korail was helping improve their living conditions.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Department for International Development (DFID) run the project in Korail slum and 29 others towns.
She also said it is important to reduce population pressure on Dhaka city, but it would be a mistake to think that sending back people to the countryside would resolve the problem.