The one pocket challenge | 2017-01-30 |

The one pocket challenge

Mahfuzur Rahman, UNB     30th January, 2017 06:57:51 printer

The one pocket challenge

Having a home in Dhaka was once or is still a big dream for many middle-class families. But living in a city like this should not be a dream in any way.

Why should one make his or her life miserable by chalking out a long-term plan to live in the lousy air and crazy crowds of Dhaka – the capital city of Bangladesh!


Grappling with some 17 million people, Dhaka has got all the problems one can name – from dirt to darkness. If you want to go on a morning walk, you are unlikely to be able to do so at ease. Have you got an emergency appointment to consult your doctor? No way, you are sure to miss it!


When there is rain, you will find the city streets getting submerged under rainwater blocking your movement. While there is sunny weather, you will definitely get swept by flying dust either here or there. If you want to cross a road with your kids, errant rickshaw-pullers are there to block your path. The life is not peaceful either when you are at home. Constant noise caused by brick-crushing machines or repair works or social programmes either in your own building or on nearby college compound will keep irritating you with their full-blast music. It is a crazy life all around!


Things in the city have gone from bad to worse over the recent years with its unplanned expansion amid the mounting pressure of its population. The Economist Intelligence Unit report that ranks the best and worst cities to live in the world found Dhaka as the fourth worst city in 2016. When it comes to waste management, you will simply scratch your head. We all together are littering the city which reels under huge garbage. According to available information, capital Dhaka produces some 9,000 tonnes of domestic waste every day.


The worsening situation of Dhaka city has been in the discourse for over two decades with experts and political leaders suggesting and committing many things to reshape the city. But, no one could come up with a concrete solution yet. During the last city corporation election, both mayors of Dhaka – Annisul Huq of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Sayeed Khokon of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) — had promised to rebuild the capital. They could have become green heroes, but they could not. Their high promises have turned out to be empty rhetoric, as they have apparently failed to offer anything tangible so far.


The capital city was split into two administrative zones – DNCC and DSCC – in 2011 aiming to provide better civic amenities to people. Unfortunately, this much-debated bifurcation has actually weakened the service delivery amid growing mismanagement. Even there is no visible success in their drive to ensure a better waste management in the capital. Their much-hyped hanging trash bins installed across the capital has miserably failed to attract the city dwellers as those have either vanished or remained unused.


Dhaka has virtually been made a one-pocket mega project monopolising all the basic facilities of the state. As the nation’s capital, Dhaka remains the country’s administrative hub with all the ministries being housed at the centre of the capital. All the basic government facilities — from education to healthcare — remain concentrated in Dhaka. The target of middle-class students who want to pursue their higher education is always to migrate to Dhaka. They come here from all parts of the country for admission to prominent public and private universities, mounting pressure on its ever-growing population.


According to media reports, every day over 2,000 people join the capital’s overwhelming population. All the educational institutions in Dhaka city—both the public and private ones– and their dormitories are overcrowded. A recent report released by the United News of Bangladesh (UNB) says Dhaka University’s central library, the country’s largest and richest one, is unable to accommodate its growing number of students leaving many of them standing in long queues outside its main gate every day. This is not good news at all!


Rapid decentralisation, as suggested by experts, is the effective solution to this worsening problem. Though the experts and political leaders stress the need for having a ‘de-concentrate Dhaka policy’, nothing of the sort happens in practice. Only one encouraging thing has been seen in recent times is the relocation of Dhaka Central Jail from the capital’s Nazimuddin Road to Keraniganj. This is how we need to relocate many installations and organisations from the capital.


There is no reason for many industries and factories to be there in Dhaka to pollute its environment and grab more open spaces day by day. The government should not allow establishment of any new industry or factory and even any new private university in the capital. The private sector needs to be encouraged to invest in rural areas after fulfilling their demands for uninterrupted power supply and other infrastructural development like roads and waterways.  Having quality roads across the country is very important for rapid industrialisation and the country’s economic progress. This is what the United States has done building roads across the country, even on hills without harming the environment.


To accelerate the much-needed decentralisation, the government needs to offer various incentives to its officials and employees for staying in the country’s remote districts voluntarily leaving Dhaka. To make that happen, healthcare and educational facilities have to be developed at the countryside so that they do not have to worry about the education of their children and their medical treatment.


Rickshaw is another culprit behind the chaotic traffic situation in the capital. According to an unofficial estimate, there are around 10 lakh rickshaws plying the Dhaka streets. This is not an easy job for the government to get rid of this huge number of rickshaws. There should be a well-thought-out plan in place to phase out those. This is highly embarrassing for a nation to have such human-driven vehicles moving around its capital city. Bangladesh is no longer a least developed country. It is now a ‘middle-income country’ as claimed by our political leaders. So, having rickshaws in the capital of a middle-income country does not fit well its standing.


Experts think the government could go for a mega rehabilitation project for the rickshaw-pullers so that there is no political chaos in case of phasing out of rickshaws. Private industries could be asked to gradually absorb the rickshaw-pullers in their mills and factories across the country.


Even there could be a national seminar involving all political parties, leaders and stakeholders for finding out a solution through a strong and cordial brainstorming on how to save the dying Dhaka city. It may sound difficult but not impossible. Where there is a problem there is a solution, too. A strong political will is very important in this case. The sooner we can find out a solution the better.