As most city dwellers are now staying indoors amid the closure of most offices, shopping malls, shops and educational institutions, Dhaka’s nagging littering problem has declined significantly which experts say an unintended benefit of the ongoing coronavirus shutdown.
Usually, city roads, footpaths, lanes and open spaces are left strewed with tonnes of plastic and other bottles, cans, cigarette butts and packets, papers, paper bags, waste from different food items, coconut shells, tissue papers, domestic refuse, vegetable waste, clothes and hard waste due to people’s behavioral problem, but the situation has started changing over the last few days as the fear of coronavirus made people a little bit aware of cleanliness to contain the deadly disease.Alongside the city corporations, different social organisations are cleaning the city and carrying out disinfection drive to get rid of coronavirus. Even, many city dwellers were seen cleaning their houses and premises and spraying bleaching powder-mixed water to free them from virus.
Urban experts and entomologist said cleanliness is very important to prevent not only the coronavirus but also other viral diseases, including dengue.
They also said the government should continue its awareness campaign to motivate people to come out of their bad habits of littering and thus save the environment and themselves as well.
Visiting different city areas, including Khilgaon, Malibagh, Mouchak, Moghbzar, Kakrail, Bailey Road, Rampura, Badda and some areas of Mirpur, it was seen how a dirty city has become clean and almost free from littering.
Talking to UNB at the city’s Khilgaon, Arif a cleaner of Dhak North City Corporation who collects household waste from the area, said the waste generation has dropped remarkably as many people have already left the city while most shops, markets, educational institutions remain shut.
“Roads and lanes of the city have also become now clean as very few people are coming out of homes and gathering at tea stalls and other shops and places. We’ve also seen people are cleaning their houses on their own. So, the city now looks more beautiful and cleaner than it was two weeks back,” he observed.Another city corporation cleaner, Swapan, who collects waste from Gulbagh area said they used to carry 4-5 small vans of waste every day barely 15 days ago, but now they use two vans to collect the waste.
Swapan said many people now do not throw waste here and there out of their fear of infection of the of the coronavirus.
Solaiman Khan Rubin, general secretary of Pallima Green, an organisation of Pallima Sangsad which works for conserving environment, said they have started cleaning different areas in Khilgaon to check the coronavirus spread.
“We’re spraying bleaching powder-mixed water at the different roads and lanes in Khilgaon area. We’re distributing leaflets and trying to convivence people to keep their houses, flats, and adjacent areas of their homes clean to prevent the coronavirus. People are doing so as you’ll see most areas now very neat and clean. I think this will also help us reduce the risk of the spread of dengue in the days to come.”
Contacted urban expert and green activists Iqbal Habib said littering has dropped considerably as the sources of litter has now remain stopped since people are now forced to stay inside their houses.
“Littering is a behavioural problem; it won’t be changed easily. A little change has come in the behaviour of people and they’re now trying to maintain personal hygiene due to their concern over coronavirus. But strong campaign should continue by both the government and the media so that people don’t forget about the importance of cleanliness and make it their regular practice for their own safety,” he said.
Habib, joint secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, said the government should also improve the waste management system to keep the city free from littering.
“Coronavirus has dealt a big blow to our lives and livelihood, and forced us to remain clean and realise importance of cleanliness. This has also given us a scope to take necessary preparation to prevent another disaster, dengue, in the days to come. Or else, we’ve to face even worse dengue situation than that of last year.”
Kabirul Bashar, an entomologist of Jahangirnagar University, said it is a good initiative that people are cleaning their houses and spraying bleaching powder-mixed water to free them from virus.
At the same time, he said construction sites, bus terminals, police stations where many seized vehicles are kept at open spaces, the front and backyards of different hospitals and different government establishments also need to be cleaned now to destroy the breeding sources of aedes mosquitos.
“Policymakers and people are now giving all the focus on preventing the coronavirus. But another danger, dengue, is lurking to wreak a havoc on human health. We should now prevent the coronavirus and must take proper steps in advance to check dengue as well. Only cleanliness can save us from many diseases and viral infection,” the JU teacher added.