Published : Tuesday, 5 March, 2019 at 12:00 AM
Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has got a brand new mayor in the form of ex-BGMEA chief Atiqul Islam after the position was vacant for over a year due to the unfortunate demise of ex-DNCC mayor Annisul Huq in 2017. Atiqul has a very short time, just over a year, to work as a mayor unless he gets re-elected in the next scheduled mayoral polls. That gives him a little while to create an impact. His predecessor Annisul Huq was a charismatic DNCC mayor as he took many bold changes and transformed many parts of his constituency and people trusted him for the improvement of his part of Dhaka city.
It makes Atiqul’s work both hard and easy. Easy because, he mostly needs to carry on with the plans of ex-mayor and hard because, people will keep comparing him with the former mayor on courage, charisma and leadership ability especially due to their similar businessman background. Whatever the case is there is no time to relax for the new mayor of one of the least livable cities of the world and with a crystal clear planning, which will prioritize the problems of Dhaka city, he needs to start works very soon.
The new mayor has already discussed some plans for the development of Dhaka city as he divided them into three parts – short-term, medium-term and long term. He has declared his plans for the next one year which includes – transforming Dhaka North City Corporation into an enlightened city, preventing environmental pollution, making sure the Nagar app is operational, digitalizing and automating all kinds of transactions and taxes, planting trees and encouraging residents to have gardens on their roofs, building playgrounds in all the areas, returning the footpaths to the citizens, restoring order in the transport and bridge sector, taking up development projects in the newly added wards and ensuring that previous mayor Annisul Huq’s plans are implemented. The mayor-elect has also promised to take measures to eliminate mosquitoes, reduce air pollution, develop drainage system and build multi-storey and underground parking lots. He is yet to declare the medium-term and long-term plans.
The plans sound good but miss detail which obviously requires some time. A problem wise approach can be more helpful to work in a concrete way. Like; traffic congestion is the greatest problem for Dhaka city dwellers and the mayor has a lot to do to eliminate or at least to reduce this problem. As the mayor already planned to return the footpaths to the citizens, it is going to take some bold steps. Over 60% of our footpaths are occupied by the hawkers or street vendors. These people earn their livelihood from the footpaths. Uprooting them is going to directly cause economic disaster as unemployment will rise and people in the under-poverty class will rapidly increase. Moreover, the middle and lower middle income group will face difficulty as they cannot afford the product prices of the established market. Hence, the mayor needs to come up with a rehabilitation plan.
The mayor should establish a hawkers’ market at each ward of his constituency. The hawkers should be allowed to setup their shops with a minimal fee in these markets. Moreover, after the office hours and on holidays, temporary markets should be setup in front of commercial office buildings as they remain closed on that time or day. The shop owners can use mobile vehicles to sell their products and after market hours they have to clean the place as we have seen in different countries. The city corporation also has to ensure that these temporary market places are cleaned daily immediately after the market closes.
To reduce traffic problem, the mayor’s greatest challenge will be to initiate cooperation among all related authorities. Usually our roads are dug by a utility service provider and as soon as their works are completed, another one digs the same road. This is constantly creating hazards for the citizens in the form of traffic jam, air pollution, dust pollution, interruption in utility services etc. Hence, the mayor needs to create cooperation among these authorities for conducting the repair and maintenance work in a coordinated approach and in the shortest possible time.
Another traffic jam creating factor in our country is lack of public vehicle stoppage points. There are some points but those are not dedicatedly marked and there is not much passenger waiting facility. So, the drivers stop their vehicles anywhere on the roads causing traffic jam and many accidents. The mayor has to eliminate the wrong parking or vehicles dumping zones as the ex-mayor did. Many other areas has to be addressed by Atiqul Islam to reduce the biggest trouble of the Dhaka citizens and hopefully DSCC mayor Sayed Khokon will also join this endeavour.
To make Dhaka a modern city which will eventually sustain, we must focus on reducing different types of pollutions which is destroying the environment of this city. Air pollution, dust pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, food hazards and many things else are causing several hazards for the dwellers. The level of air and dust pollution has turned Dhaka into one of the least liveable countries of the world. Food hazard is turning almost everyone sick in this city. Though we do not realize the hazardous foods are taking a shot on our body in two ways – directly causing diseases and reducing body’s disease prevention ability. The mayor has a critical role to play in keeping the Dhaka citizens healthy also.
To keep Dhaka city clean, the city corporation must ensure proper waste dumpling places. There are many dustbins at Dhaka city but those are open. Closed waste dumping facility must be introduced so that air pollution cannot occur and diseases cannot spread. Moreover, a dedicated workforce needs to be created to clean the streets of the city efficiently and effectively. A citywide thorough campaign should be launched to ensure citizens’ participation in keeping Dhaka clean like ‘Swacha Bharat’ campaign by Narendra Modi in India.
To reduce water pollution, recovering and restoring the canals and rivers inside and alongside Dhaka city is highly required. Dumping wastes in the canals and rivers must be prevented and prohibited. Households must use septic tank and industries must have functional waste management system. With utmost priority this drive should be initiated by the new mayor with help of all relevant bodies. Solving the problem of water logging is also very necessary to remove problems like mosquitoes and uncomfortable transportation during the rainy days. Coordinating with the relevant departments is extremely urgent to set up surface water treatment facility and to expand the existing facility for municipal water supply. Present use of sub surface water drainage must be progressively reduced.
The city corporation must act hard to reduce dust and air pollution. They must ensure that the commercial and residential construction areas are covered to stop dusts from spreading. Areas of project like Metro Rail must be covered also. Moreover, to reduce dust, the city corporation has to water the roads and open places of Dhaka. Other than that, as Atiqul already stated, tree plantation campaign must be run. Both DNCC and DSCC with the support of the dwellers must conduct this campaign. Without greenery, there is no way the future generations will survive in this city.
The city corporations provide trade licenses for all businesses and they should not allow any unhealthy hotels or restaurants to conduct business. Before issuing trade licenses, they must visit the facility and collect undertaking ensuring quality, safe and healthy foods for the customers. The street food vendors must be brought under shades or should be provided covered vehicles to operate. There is a lot of things the new city mayor should do to reduce food hazards to ensure heath of the citizens.
Digitalizing all the services of the city corporations is also very important as the new mayor also kept that in his primary agenda but initiating redundant system is pathetic. If we have to visit the office multiple times after claiming services on a digital platform, then simply it will have no impact. Hence, digitalization for the digitalization should be avoided.
Truly we are pointing towards too many issues to be addressed especially considering the short tenure of the new mayor. But it is important to start those tasks and for that even three months is good enough. Former mayor Annisul Huq established his place in people’s heart by starting some drastic tasks. Mayor Atiqul should also start these tasks immediately amid stern challenges to gain the confidence and trust of the citizens.
Many expectations are resting on the shoulders of the new DNCC mayor Atiqul Islam. His mayoral tenure might be a short one but he can create real impact. Only good intent and understanding the sufferings of the Dhaka citizens is required to do some great works. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is relentlessly working for the development of our country. We hope Atiqul Islam will also follow her path and will dedicate his time, works and efforts for improving lives of Dhaka dwellers.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)