Dhaka is not a city like other capital cities of the world. Its importance is much more than a capital city.
There are many historic memories all over the city and its surrounding areas. Dhaka City must be proud of being a witness to those events. Is not it painful when we see that city full of bad smell and pollution? It is true Dhaka is being filled with aesthetic buildings everyday. Though it is supposed to be a beauty enhancement, but all those are becoming faded due to our negligence and mismanagement.We know the present government and the leaders of Dhaka City Corporation (North and South) are working tirelessly to transform Dhaka into a beautiful and clean city. They have already taken commendable steps to enhance its beauty and cleanliness. Huge footpath areas are already made free from occupation. To improve the drainage system, the old structure has been replaced by the new. Many occupied roads have been evacuated and are made usable for transports. But the expected results are not seen due to a number of problems coming from various directions. Though there is no lack of sincerity, still things are not smoothly moving forward. The picture of a clean or beautiful Dhaka that is stretched in front of our eyes looks murky.
Are we, the inhabitants, committed to make Dhaka a clean city? Are we playing our role in keeping our houses, footpaths, roads, streets, workplace, etc. clean and proper? Do we advise our family members, relatives, colleagues or neighbours on cleanliness? We should be aware as well as make others aware. Not only the government and the city’s mayors, each of us has the responsibility. In fact, citizens’ awareness is important as well as crucial. If our negligence and carelessness continue, any efforts taken by the government or the mayors will not be able to see the light of success.
Dhaka city has been made most vulnerable by putting open dustbins here and there. Brick made dustbins are seen in some places.There are also metal made dustbins. However, those are constructed or placed either on the footpath or on the road. It seems that the authorities do not have any appropriate place to place them. The bad smell coming out of the waste kept in those open dustbins not only creates intolerable pain for the pedestrians, but those dustbins also create traffic congestion. Waste management system in the present world has been improved a lot. Many countries are producing electricity from this waste. Large amount of waste is being deposited daily in Dhaka city. Generally the city corporation does the work of collecting the waste. But, if the responsibility of waste management is given to the private sector, government could save money and on the other hand, the private sector could produce many things including electricity from the waste.
One can’t deny that our normal habit is to throw wastes any place we wish. While walking, we throw end part of the cigarette, covers of the groundnut, skin of banana, etc on or besides the road. We put our garbage wherever we want, whether it is in the house courtyard, parks or roads. By doing so, we have made the entire Dhaka city into a mega-dustbin. Are we so much dirty as a nation? Does our culture posses any role for this? What does our history or tradition say? How do we live in such environment? Can’t we stop putting these dirty garbages here and there? Can’t our schools and colleges make their students aware in this regard? If we could do, it would have been a praiseworthy work.
Yet, in this city, people are seen urinating along the road in a crowd of thousands of people. Pedestrians also find it difficult to walk on those areas. There are public toilet facilities in some places in Dhaka city and steps have been taken to build more. It is true that the number of toilets in Dhaka city is not at par with the population. But is it the reason to urinate publicly along the road? Personally, I can not accept such incidents. In fact, these people do not feel shy in doing this due to their lack of education or awareness. They do not care at all, though the passers-by are ashamed of this. When the foreigners laugh seeing this, it becomes unbearable for us. This nuisance must be stopped immediately. If smoking in public place is a punishable offence, then can’t we introduce the same law for urination publicly?
There is no road in the busiest area of Dhaka city, which does not have floating shops on the sidewalk. Due to these shops, various types of wastes are scattered in those areas. But no one wants to take the responsibility to clean. I believe the pedestrians passing those areas will acknowledge this fact. These floating shops do not hinder the movement of the pedestrians, but also ruins the beauty of beautiful buildings on those roads. Recently, such shops have been lifted from some of the roads. May be the authorities will give more importance to this issue in future.The work to replace the existing drainage system has been going on since last year. Such works are expected to be finished during the winter. Otherwise, rainwater in the rainy season turns the holes into canals. Due to lack of adequate drainage system to remove rainwater, many busy roads and streets of Dhaka city become canals. Every year, the flood of dirty water shows us how much wastes we throw here and there. We understand everything, but take minimum care in keeping Dhaka city clean.
There are numerous slums in this city. Basically, those slums were grown on the unused land of the government especially on the land of railway. But there are slums on the private owned land as well. Generally, the uprooted or low income people are the residents of these slums. The slum dwellers on the government land might be rehabilitated in suitable areas. The slums on private land should be closed or the owners could be allowed to transform these slums into low rental aparments following government’s terms and conditions. In fact, Dhaka city should not have any slums in any way.
Writing or postering on the walls is a normal practice, especially on the walls next to big roads including walls of educational institutes. Tearing the posters, people throw those on the road. Such works do not only ruin the beauty, but also make the environment dirty. Steps should be taken to stop such writing as well as pasting posters on the wall. Necessary rules could be framed to stop such activities.
It is very important to take possession of the water bodies, canals and rivers in Dhaka city and to free them from pollution. Steps should be taken to make them suitable for the city’s beautification. Hatir Jheel has not only enhanced the beauty of the city, it has also made the transport system in the neighbourhood easy. However, authorities concerned should not forget that bad smell coming from its water might diminish its beauty. I believe the authorities are aware of this. On the other hand, we have to think about Buriganga. I do not know how to define its water as ‘water’. Besides, enhancing the beauty of Dhaka, it could ease the existing transport system if the occupied land on the bank of this river is recoverd and developed accoringly.
Actually over population is the major cause for all the odds we are facing here everyday. If such situation continues, Dhaka will not remain as a city for human living. Steps should be taken immediately to lessen Dhaka from the burden of over population. A tolerable population size can only make Dhaka a beautiful city, a clean city. In that context, some of the government establishments as well as industries (public and private) including garments could be relocated at other places to reduce the population size.
We strongly believe that authorities concerned would certainly put their best efforts to make Dhaka a clean and attractive city.
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary