Let's co-create our city: Jhenaidah
Jhenaidah, Bangladesh
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Location:
Jhenaidah, Bangladesh
Category:
urban planning
Phase:
under construction
Updated:
11 August 2021
The people of Jhenaidah have always aspired for a safe and healthy city.  Local community architects, different groups and municipality have come together to co-create public space, low-income housing, food growing network, community-led entrepreneurships etc. The proposed initiative is a part of ongoing citizen-led design process, focuses on developing a relationship of water towards the city, through creating public space along the river.
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Introduction
Jhenaidah, a secondary city with a population of approximately 2,56,000, is situated in the southwest of Bangladesh. A river named 'Noboganga' flows through the city centre of Jhenaidah. Like many other secondary cities of Bangladesh, Jhenaidah also lacked public spaces, whether in city-scale or in neighborhood scale, where men, women, children or elderly people could go and do activities for their physical and mental wellbeing.

Jhenaidah municipality has around three hundred ponds. People used to face their house towards ponds and used these for bathing, swimming, fishing and gathering around. Now these have become the backyards full of garbage as if there is no alternative better waste management system. A recent research shows that about 70% of children in the city do not know how to swim due to polluted water. This is alarming in a riverine country like Bangladesh.

Since 2014, around 20 different groups got together and started to think about the possibilities of merging urban open spaces with the river, ponds, roads and pockets of lands. The objective is double-folded; to find people-friendly urban open spaces and to protect the water-bodies from private encroachment and pollution. Together the city people have developed a design strategy to improve the city's relationship with the river, by creating public spaces and interactive actions. When the collective dreams are visualized by all, the city authorities eventually realize the proposed design step-by-step.
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Impact
The long term vision is to protect  5 kilometers of riverside from encroachment and pollution through connecting the riverside communities and developing required public open spaces for the communities or the whole city. This 'required' public space will vary from community to community. It can be a communal bathing space, a collective garden or a water garden dedicated for biological treatment of wastewater etc. Incorporating public open space protects the public water bodies from illegal privatisation through communal surveillance . In addition, the wastewater treatment before releasing city's runoff and household wastewater to surface water bodies can be more controlled and effective. With these long-term impacts in mind the citywide people's network had developed and realised various small scale interventions as followings: 

Naboganga River ghat (a stepped platform by the river) is situated on the confluence of the river. This place hosts numerous traditional fairs and religious festivals. As a reflection of the citizen's dream, a new ghat and wide pedestrian area are designed and built here.

Apart from the ghat at city centre, a riverside community named Shatbaria also designed another ghat with particular focus on women's privacy. This ghat is under construction with the support from municipality and partner NGO.

To protect the city's existing 300 water ponds, people of Jhenaidah formed a 'Citywide pond-side Community network'. They prepared the proposal 'Co-create ponds' for one of the pond-side communities. Conserving biodiversity in and around the pond was part of the proposed design, which is yet to be built.
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Core team

Community groups: The groups are diverse in backgrounds- children, teenage boys, girls, women, men, elderly, differently-abled, environmental activists, low-income communities, cultural groups, sports groups, street vendors, business groups, teachers, municipality officials, architects-engineers, shop owners etc. 

Municipality: Jhenaidah Municipality, a local authority has been supporting different civic services to its citizens and community-led housing, city planning and health facilities. It acts as a platform in the city where every group can come and work together. Municipality co-host any event related to the co-creation of the city. It mobilizes funds with partner organizations to implement any structure of different scales. After implementation, the municipality manages and maintains it.  

The local team of experts: Co.Creation.Architects, a local architectural and landscape design studio has been working in people-led process in the city. It mobilizes other experts like engineers, NGOs and resources from municipality.  

National and international volunteer teams: Jhenaidah city has received volunteer support and consultation from several friends organizations such as, Platform of Community Action and Architecture (POCAA), Community architects' Network (CAN), and Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR).

The city has also welcomed national young professionals, university students to volunteer in the exciting people's-led city design process for the last couple of years. The benefit that the young professionals get by working is to experiment and exercise the tools and methods of how to work 'with' people. 

Citywide peoples' network meeting in municipality

image: Khondaker Hasibul Kabir | © all rights reserved
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Image gallery
Lets co-create our city: Jhenaidah1

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Lets co-create our City: Jhenaidah 2

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Lets co-create our city: Jhenaidah 3

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Jhenaidah city guide map

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Co-creation of city with children

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Connectivity of urban open spaces

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Citywide peoples' network sharing with local authorities

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Visualizing the riverside 1

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Visualizing the riverside 2

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Realization of a part of the visualization

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It has become a destination of many citizens

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Visualization of water garden: a biological waste water treatment by the river

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Community women groups' dream of bathing ghat

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Visualization of the dream

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Realization of the dream

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Pondside community's dream and aspiration

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Visualization of pondside community's dream

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Visualization of pondside community's dream 1

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Connectivity of city center open spaces

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Help bring our project to life!

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Where are we now

We are at the momentum where we can visualise the previously mentioned communal small interventions being connected through a citywide larger intervention to multiply the impact. In terms of funding support for land, material and labour cost, the municipality took part in the city-centre ghat, while the NGO Brac took part in the Community Ghat. A separate support from Community Architects' network (CAN) facilitated the process of collective gardens.

The municipality is still working to organise budget for the 5km riverside protection and public space development interventions, water (treatment) garden interventions and 'Co-create pond' interventions.

An indication of our team’s capacity:
40% funding already raised
90% expertise already found
40% materials / equipment already found
70% builders already found
Finance: € 9,000
As we believe that every stakeholder should be a contributor to this city design process, it is our mutual understanding for the Jhenaidah city, the municipality is responsible for funding and sourcing material and labor cost. However, the city process can be benefitted from  some additional funding needed by the city is to facilitate the pool of volunteers with some basic supports , such as, work space, accommodation, travel or food expenses. Since the involvement of local youth groups and national volunteers bring a lot of momentum to the city design process, a strategy for the city's design team has been to keep aside a proper funding for the volunteers so that they can comfortably work and learn the city design process with people.
  • Workspace setup support (partial)
2,000
  • Workspace operation support ( for 1 year)
1,200
  • Seed funding for water (treatment) garden
1,800
  • support for community architects`
4,000
Hands
Volunteers are always welcome. This process had always been a volunteer-led process. Whenever some volunteers joined us, it helped the local volunteers to boost up and involve in some new actions in the city design process. Involving new volunteers will surely open up new opportunities. . 
Help bring our project to life!
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