Saturday, 30 September, 2023

When local communities unite to co-create a better city: Jhenaidah shows the way

When local communities unite to co-create a better city: Jhenaidah shows the way

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People in Jhenaidah district are demonstrating the power of unity in their efforts to co-create their city.

Award-winning architect couple Khondakar Hasibul Kabir and Suhailey Farzana, who are based in Jhenaidah, are motivating local communities to get engaged. Both the current and former mayors of the district town are also supporting them.

Through consistent community participation and appropriation, extensive involvement of women, marginalised groups, and a local workforce, the seemingly simple undertaking of cleaning up the access to the Nabaganga river in Jhenaidah led to a thoughtful and minimal landscaping project with local materials and construction techniques.

Thus, came about the transformation of a derelict informal dump site into an attractive and accessible multifunctional space that is valued by Jhenaidah’s diverse communities.

The project managed to reverse the ecological degradation of the river and its banks and health hazards.

Future phases focus on public use of the river area with walkways, gardens, cultural facilities and environmental efforts to enhance biodiversity in the river.

The Urban River Spaces project in Jhenaidah, created by the local architect couple was the winner of 2022 Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

“I will be helping you in your future plan for Jhenaidah. Rivers are the best resources for any city and it is a blessing for us that we have a river in the city,” said Jhenaidah Municipality Mayor Md. Quayum Shahrear Zahedee Hizawl.

Mayor Zahedee said he, along with his predecessor Saidul Karim Mintu, will work together to complete the unfinished work and develop a modern and beautiful Jhenaidah.

A delegation of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) visited Jhenaidah on September 14, 15 and celebrated the success story together with the local communities.

Director of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Farrokh Derakhshani, who was part of the delegation, said that he was elated to be in the district town.

“There are thousands of cities across the world like Jhenaidah. Now the whole world will know this city due to the AKDN award,” he said.

Egyptian architect and CEO of Takween Integrated Community Development Kareem Ibrahim said that he sees much hope and encouragement among the local communities.

“I realised that everyone here is involved in this initiative. A sense of ownership really matters. Many are getting encouraged by such initiative as its impact is huge,” he said.

Former mayor Mintu said they did not undertake this project for an award; they did it for themselves, for the people of Jhenaidah town.

The former mayor said people are coming to the site to enjoy music, to cycle, for their morning exercise, regular group studies, and the youngsters are also coming here to spend quality time with their friends. “We are proud of our local architects Suhailey and Kabir.”

Zainab Faruqui Ali, Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Architecture, said Suhailey and Kabir have accomplished much for Jhenaidah and the locals. “I am sure they will get required support to continue their work.”

On the Occasion of the 10th anniversary of the signing of a protocol of co-operation between the Government of Bangladesh and the Aga Khan Development Network, a programme is scheduled to be held on September 17 in Dhaka.