Is re-ruralization the right answer?

Many regions and countries face urbanization challenges, South Asia is no exception. As such, the World Bank flagship program on urbanization strives to link key policymakers and practitioners to promote a more efficient urbanization process in South Asia through the exchange of experiences and ideas. The 3rd workshop in this series gathered over 80 professionals from 7 South Asian countries, the World Bank and the Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements in the beautiful city of Thimphu, Bhutan.

To begin, the foundation of the workshop was set with presentations about the need for an integrated framework to leverage urbanization as a tool, an opportunity, to stimulate economic development and the function of cities. However, many regions in South Asia see weak institutions and inadequate infrastructure that result in lack of planning, sprawl, and informal housing. To address this challenge, the workshop drew focus to promoting access to affordable land and housing.

 Nevertheless, Songsu Choi from KRIHS urges that the overall objective of housing policy should lie with managing the overall housing supply. Not surprisingly, many of these countries are faced with similar problems like land scarcity, congestion, substandard housing, weak institutional coordination, limited finances and lack of planning but it is interesting how many have tackled the problem differently.

Many places have policies and institutions relating to housing in place but proper planning is still lacking or absent. Countries are also looking into stimulating the role of private sector in housing developments. For example, Bhutan brought up difficulties with balancing tradition with the new and the loss of social cohesion amongst the community which fits within their efforts for increased national happiness.

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