New Dhaka city mayors: Time to deliver on promises
While megacity Dhaka, along with the whole Bangladesh, is fighting to survive against a deadly pandemic named ‘COVID-19’ and also expecting ‘Dengue’ menace, new mayors have taken the charge of both Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC). Atiqul Islam, the DNCC mayor re-elected on his second term, took office on May 13 and Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, new mayor of DSCC, took his office on 16 May. Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, has been suffering from several problems for a long time. There are several areas and issues, which the new mayors need to address soon as the whole city puts on a lot of hope on these two. Hence, as we welcome our new city mayors of Dhaka, they need to start acting on different issues at earliest to keep up their electoral promises.
The election of both city corporations of Dhaka city was held on Feb 1 this year. Both the mayors received more than three months prior to their taking of office. The problems of megacity Dhaka is well identified and were mentioned on many instances. Dengue, waterlogging, traffic jam, different types of pollutions, citizen services etc. are well defined issues of our capital. Additionally, a new issue in the form of Covid-19 has appeared. We can logically expect that, the DNCC and DSCC mayors have done their homework and completed their planning to resolve these issues during the last three months. And that makes us hopeful to see immediate actions rather than planning and creating hopes in addressing people’s concerns.
Dhaka is one of the most populous cities of the world. A huge number of people live in this due to their livelihood and education along with the core residents. Moreover, everyday millions of people move into this city for different purposes on temporary basis. This city is actually the center of al sorts of activities of Bangladesh.
Additionally, this city is also the center of all sorts of national troubles too. Like, the spread of COVID-19 is based from Dhaka. Dengue crisis is also originated from Dhaka and spreads through the country. It is said that, if Dhaka survives, the whole country will survive. The significance of this city in our economy and progress is also enormous as most of the development works as well as national investment is made on Dhaka. Hence, it is very important that Dhaka sustains as one of the most vibrant megacities of the world and the new mayors has a lot to do in this respect.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has turned Bangladesh into a role model of development during the last decade as we have received great global appreciation for this achievement. This achievement is due to valiant, timely and sincere actions of Bangladeshi Prime Minister. The citizens of Dhaka expect similar activities from the DNCC and DSCC mayors. They should completely follow the guidelines. motto and enthusiasm of Hersto achieve all our development and national goals.
Right now, the new city mayors must focus on COVID-19 and dengue. To contain the spread of COVID-19, the mayors have responsibility to ensure social distancing especially as markets, shopping malls, shops etc., which can become a great source of the spread. Moreover, special focus must be given on medical and protective waste disposal as those can also cause the spread if not handled with care. They must also ensure that, the workers of city corporation especially the cleaning workers, anti-mosquito drive workers are fully functional during this COVID-19 scenario as we need to fight issues like dengue and waterlogging without any delay.
According to experts, the dengue menace is going to be much fierce this year and already we are getting that vibe. Both DNCC and DSCC have huge responsibility in this context. They must ensure spray of proper anti-mosquito spray throughout the city including closed residential, commercial or industrial spaces. They must coordinate with WASA and Water Development Board to ensure keeping the hundreds of canals and other waterbodies inside Dhaka clean with flowing water. They also need to create awareness among the city residents to cooperate and participate in this war against both COVID-19 and dengue by playing their roles proactively.
Considering the COVID-19 scenario, the Dhaka residents need to ensure a proper balance between the life and livelihood.Moreover, the city corporations need to provide essential services to the COVID-19 infected patients. As June to September is a peak period for the spread of dengue, they must take effective measures immediately to deal with the Aedes mosquito issue.
Apart from COVID-19 and dengue, obviously traffic congestion will be on top of the Dhaka city’s problems.Millions of people move from one part of the city to another for different purposes. Enduring quality primary education and quality health services at every ward can reduce this movement significantly which will create lesser traffic jam throughout Dhaka. Occupied footpaths and dust throughout the city has worsened the scenario for the citizens. Excessive dust is being the greatest reason for air pollution in this city. Additionally the whole city is being victims of dusts from Metro Rail construction project and the city corporations should water the roads regularly. Though during the current general holidays for containing COVID-19 spread, the traffic congestion is not present right now, it will reappear as the greatest problem as soon as the holidays are over.
To make the city functioning, the mayors need to ensure sufficient footpath network across the city, an integrated traffic management system to reduce traffic jam, hawker rehabilitation and employment, separate lanes for speedy and slow vehicles, effectively managed bus and truck terminals, multi-storied parking etc. They also need to coordinate with the relevant authorities to construct a ring road around the Dhaka city to increase the road area, which is very low in terms of other modern cities of the world.
As we are approaching the monsoon season, the city mayors, need to address the waterlogging problem immediately though it requires a long-term planning to be solicited permanently. But, for this year, they need to focus on temporary solution like; keeping the rivers, canals and other water discharge areas clean and flowing. If not worked on immediately, then, this year also, the Dhaka citizens will suffer a lot from this waterlogging problem and it will also enhance spread of dengue.Most importantly, the city mayors and councilors must coordinate with different utility agencies so that they do not start development works in an unplanned way whenever they like. The works must be done in coordination.
Another great problem for the Dhaka citizens is waste management and cleanliness. There is no proper system to remove the wastes from the roads, residential and commercial areas. Though the citizens pay and the city corporations deploy enough people, the works are not properly done as citizen welfare is not a headache for them. Lack of cleanliness actually creates huge trouble like; dengue and blockage in the drainage system. Along with the proper cleaning works, a waste recycling facility is a must to keep the environment of this city soothing for the citizens.
The two new mayors must also ensure that citizen services are provided to the people in an efficient and effective manner. The huge population of Dhaka city is a major problem as it is reaching around 30 million though the DNCC has only 2.34 million voters and DSCC has only 1.87 million voters. It would not be tough to serve these voters and their family members but the floating population is very large. Hence, a ‘City Residence Card’ should be introduced to serve the citizens. It will also help to improve utility services, environment, crime scenario, health services, education and everything else.
In this era of ‘Digital Bangladesh’, the city corporations should introduce an app to cater the citizen services. Moreover, a dedicated hotline number should be provided from both DNCC and DSCC so that the citizens can report their problems as well as can track the progress of solutions from their residence.
Most importantly, both DNCC and DSCC need to work in a corruption-free manner. Both of these are completely grasped by corruption and both the mayors prior to getting elected emphasized to eliminate corruption as it is a priority agenda of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also. We have already seen some actions too as immediately after taking office, the new DSCC mayor terminated two top officials of DSCC for irregularities. If corruption can be controlled, then the city corporations will be able to utilize the funds allocated for them as well as the citizens will be eager to pay their taxes.
The major challenges that the new city mayors need to overcome if the lack of cooperation among different service providing departments and agencies. We lose a huge fund unnecessarily for this lack of coordination and many works are pending till now only for this reason. The government needs to provide the city mayors right privilege and power to ensure the cooperation among these authorities as that will help a lot in reducing the sufferings of Dhaka city residents.
Ensuring public health facility, ensuring basic rights of low-income group people, making Dhaka a safe city by installing proper lights and other security equipments like CCTV cameras, constructing parks and entertainment zones for citizens, participating in anti-drugs movement, restoration of heritage sights inside Dhaka city, ensuring smooth public transportation system, turning Dhaka city an attractive option for tourists etc. are among so many issues the new mayors and councilors should address. There is a huge task ahead and we can just hope the new mayors and councilors will be dedicated to these tasks.
Late DNCC Mayor Annisul Huq took some drastic steps to change the condition of Dhaka city immediately after taking office in April, 2015. Many changes were visible to the citizens in a very short time. But due to his untimely demise in November, 2017, he could not fulfill all his tasks. The whole Dhaka city still remembers him for the works he completed or initiated during his short time in the chair. We hope the new mayors will follow his path along with the farsighted guidelines of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. An action-oriented and people friendly approach of the mayors can really ease the life of the Dhaka citizens as well as can save the city.
To reach our development goals, it is vital that Dhaka becomes a completely functional megacity. The DNCC and DSCC mayors have everything- rightful power and honor as they are holding ministerial positions, people’s support and PM’s guidelines. Now, they need to start the works soon. If they perform their duties with good intent, there is no doubt, good days are coming for the Dhaka citizens. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also put on her trust on these two city mayors for making the two city corporations the development partner of the whole country and we believe, they will not dishearten her. We just hope, both the mayors will heal our years-long pains.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)