Hybrid and Multi-Level Adaptive Governance for Sustainable Urban Transformations in the Global South: A Secondary City Case Study

Tahmina Yasmin*, Megan A. Farrelly, Briony C. Rogers, Stefan Krause, Iseult Lynch

*Corresponding author for this work

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The water governance crisis has critical implications for the transformation of cities through establishment of sustainable water management practices. Adaptive governance approaches, with their potential to address global water governance challenges, are emerging in the context of the global South (GS). A key feature of adaptive governance is its enabling context, or hybridized governance approach which bridges organizational and network activities across multiple implementation scales. Transforming urban water management toward sustainable water governance practices requires flexibility and agility, and a willingness to enable new ideas, features often associated with smaller and newer cities (secondary cities) which are less constrained than the major cities. However, unpacking their potentiality and the scope of such secondary cities to lead the way in transitioning to sustainable water governance remains under-researched. To address this gap, a qualitative study in a representative GS secondary city (Mymensingh in Bangladesh) was undertaken to investigate whether national and local strategies directed toward improving governance and management capacity of the local municipality are yielding sustainable transformations. We identified a significant shift within the governance regime that influences existing power dynamics and decision-making for the delivery of urban water services. Within the traditional state-led governance structure, a hybridized governance is emerging that builds both institutional and actor capacity. However, these hybridized governance activities are strongly dependent on (international) donor investment and guidance, therefore the presence or absence of donor support will likely determine the impact of these activities in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Article number756273
Number of pages20
JournalFrontiers in Water
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The MSDP project is one of several long-term initiatives undertaken by the Bangladeshi government, led by the Urban Development Directorate (UDD), and funded by the UN Development Programme (MSDP, ). This long-term project aims to ensure basic services are delivered to urban communities, by improving community resilience through increasing formal and informal participation and collaboration within and between government agencies, with non-government organizations (NGOs), and broader civil society. The Mymensingh Pourashava has been actively involved in this project, from the design phase through to implementation, and a key step was the 20-year master plan to boost the Pourashava's capacity to envision the city's resilience. Details of the master plan can be found at http://www.udd.gov.bd/site/publications/3cadb66c-c1fb-490f-ba99-b76936365de1/Mymensingh-Strategic-Development-Plan-MSDP-2011–2031 and at their website, http://www.msdp.gov.bd/ . For this study MSDP project is considered as niche due to its different approach (bottom-up planning with numerous consultations with local actors) from the conventional planning approach (top-down) practices in Bangladesh.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Yasmin, Farrelly, Rogers, Krause and Lynch.


  • Bangladesh
  • adaptive governance
  • global south
  • secondary city
  • sustainable transformation
  • urban water management


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