New Dhaka City mayors: Time to turn promises into reality

Published : Tuesday, 4 February, 2020 at 12:00 AM

Dhaka city has received two new mayors on Feb 1. After an intense election, the new mayors of Dhaka North City Corporation and Dhaka South City Corporation along with newly elected councillors will take office soon. Before the election, they made thousands of promises to the city residents focusing on the development and welfare of this megacity as well as its citizens. But the promises are not enough as we have seen severe failures of the former mayors and councillors in the past.

The citizens of Dhaka are mistreated and victims of fake promises for a long time. The sufferings of the Dhaka citizens are mostly derived from the failures of the city corporations till now and people want a change of that scenario. Hence, it is important that, the new mayors and councillors start working on their made promises immediately so that they can make their tenure on those chairs a remarkable one.

Both DNCC and DSCC mayors are from the ruling party Awami League which enables them to work smoothly in coordination with the government. Moreover, they are well aware of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s vision of a developed Bangladesh. Therefore, it is expected that, they will be able to relate without any delay and will start serving on their promises soon. It is also important that, we keep reminding the new mayors about their promises so that they do not lay back relaxed and go with the flow as many previous mayors did.

DNCC mayor Md Atiqul Islam in his election manifesto pledged to make Dhaka North a healthy, functioning and modern city if he was elected as the mayor. He committed to go for a year-long anti-mosquito drive and to build a sustainable waste management system at Amin Bazar landfill introducing recycling system to extract resources from wastes.He also pledged to create area-based park and playground for all groups of people and setting up adequate slaughtering houses for ensuring hygiene in meat market.

Atiq also promised to take steps against air pollution which was one of the major problems of the city as Dhaka ranked among the most unlivable cities of the world which will require vigorous actions to reduce dusts in the air of Dhaka city especially in the current context of huge ongoing development works like Metro Rail project in the city. He also emphasized comprehensive reproductive healthcare centres.

To make the city functioning, Atiq promised to ensure sufficient footpath network across the city, an integrated traffic management system to reduce traffic jam, hawker rehabilitation and employment, separate bicycle lane at possible locations, smart bus and truck terminals, multi-storied parking, and transport facilities for students.

He also wished to make Dhaka North city modern by installing Shobar Dhaka app, electric bus services, digital civilian services including holding tax, birth and death registration and trade license. He also pledged to set up digital command centre to make the city disaster resilient and more secured, modernize the community centres and ensure their multiple use, and establishment of cultural centre at every locality. Atiq also promised to reclaim all the occupied and earth filled city canals to end water logging.
Atiq made all the pledges in his manifesto before the election though he did not mention any specific timeframe to implement those. There was no mention of how many fields or slaughtering houses would be made, which already creates question if there is any prior specific action plan. We can hope that, the DNCC mayor starts working as we believe he must have something planned before making those promises.

Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) mayor Barrister Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh provided his 5-point election manifesto with promises of building Dhaka as a developed city.The 5-point manifesto included beautiful Dhaka, traditional Dhaka, vibrant Dhaka, well-governed Dhaka and developed Dhaka. He committed to build required number of gardens and modern community centres, increase environment-friendly infrastructures and greenery, reduce sound pollution and build playground at each Ward to make Dhaka beautiful. About traditional Dhaka he promised to make the former Dhaka central jail area as a heritage site, to set up museum and art gallery with coordinated efforts and to preserve and restore the traditional characteristics of Old Dhaka through a master plan.

Mentioning his plan to make vibrant Dhaka, DSCC mayor Taposh promised to introduce separate roads for speedy vehicles, slow vehicles and pedestrian in order to reduce traffic congestion, to make river banks wider where people will able to run bi-cycle and rickshaw. The strongest promise he made was to make Dhaka South City Corporation a corruption-free organization. He promised that the city corporation will remain open 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week and 365 days in a year for the citizens. He also promised to take steps for development of slums in the city and providing housing facilities for the cleaning workers.

Taposh pledged to turn DSCC into habitable city free from air-sound pollution, water logging, traffic congestion and mosquito menace. In his manifesto, he highlighted the need for freeing the Buriganga and Shitalakkha rivers from all illegal encroachment and bringing the rivers back to life. He also promised to form area based ‘Panchayat’ to ensure good governance and availability of civic services for the citizens. As per his priority agenda, Taposh said if he is elected he would take steps to ensure the basic amenities for the city dwellers within the first 90 days.

The Local Government (City Corporation) Act  2009 has entrusted the city corporations with over 120  types of duties under 28 major heads like public health; death and birth registration; bus, market and slaughterhouses managements; disposal of dead bodies; construction of public roads and footpaths; drainage system management; providing public safety, creating scope for public amusements by constructing parks and recreation centre; patronizing education and culture; facilitating social welfare activities among other responsibilities. We hope the new mayors and councillors play their parts in carrying out their duties with utmost honesty and commitment.

The first work of the new mayors and councillors should be to ensure removal of the huge posters, banners and festoons they had placed along with the defeated mayor and councillor candidates at every roads of Dhaka city. The candidates should have removed those in their own expense as they put those there and the citizens should not pay for the removal.

Not only the elected candidates but also those who were defeated including BNP mayor candidates at DNCC Tabith Awal and at DSCC Ishraque Hossain should have immediately instructed their followers to proactively remove these electoral wastes. If the defeated candidates especially those who are very young like Tabith and Ishraque do not make this move, then Dhaka citizens will not trust them for their welfare in the future as well as this huge electoral wastes will raise question over the education and capability of the candidates from all parties.  

Prior to the election, the candidates came up with pledges of making Dhaka an intelligent city, a top-class metropolis and a tourist hub along with many things else. But from our previous experiences, experts and most of the city dwellers are not very optimistic about the new mayors being able to keep their words. It felt like the mayoral aspirants were throwing away fancy words only to woo voters as pledges of curbing mosquito menace, reducing the perennial traffic congestion and water logging were something the residents are hearing for decades. This lack of optimism stems from the past mayors’ failure to resolve the problems in all those years.

Experts even had expressed their doubt if the new city mayors have the authority or capacity to fulfil the promises they made prior to the elections under the current administrative system. They also pointed out that over four dozen government bodies were involved in development and maintenance works in the city. Entities like WASA and RAJUK function under different ministries and the city corporations have no control over them and progress on most of the work suffer a setback due to a lack of coordination between those bodies.

We can never deny that Dhaka is lagging behind in liveability and despite our ever-expanding list of ambitious development projects, very little has been achieved in the recent past in the context of improving the quality of life in the city. It will help none to close eyes to these problems or to pretend that improvements have been made despite seeing many things getting worsen over the years. Many of these decays were contributed by the failure of the city corporations. Many residents of Dhaka, in fact, lose hope that things can get better. But we must believe that it can, only with some good intent which adopts right vision, strategy, planning and implementation.

The new mayors should without delay focus on resolving issues like, waste management, dust reduction, instalment of proper lighting facility and recovering footpaths for citizens’ use. These works does not require much planning and can be immediately completed by creating multiple special mobile teams. If these works are conducted soon, citizens will trust that the new mayors will ensure their welfare.

Now that the results are in, everyone’s eyes will be on the two new mayors to now deliver on the promises they made leading up to the elections in their respective campaigns. They must strengthen the hands of Bangabandhu’s daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is working hard to ensure prosperity of Bangladesh and to achieve her father’s dream of ‘Golden Bangla’. We are about to celebrate ‘Mujib Year’ from March 17, 2020 onwards. If the citizens keep suffering, then the success of this celebration will be jeopardized.
We, as Dhaka citizens, hope that the new city mayors and councillors already have a plan and they will immediately start to implement those in a coordinated manner with utmost honesty. If they keep citizens’ welfare as the topmost priority, then paths will be visible to solve all the problems. We wish, they live up to their promises.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)

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