The citizens of Dhaka and Chittagong are destined to test their hopes again at the end of this month, in elections to Dhaka North, Dhaka South and Chittagong City Corporations.
For the last few days, we have been listening, watching and reading of demands that residents of the two cities have been raising before would-be Mayors and Councillors to address and solve. Each demand seems pretty logical. But, is anything really going to happen to reduce their sufferings? None can actually reply to it as the citizens' past experiences do not allow them to be much hopeful about the City Corporation Mayors and Ward Councillors.
The needs of Dhaka city dwellers have been the same for many years. With the same hope, they go to polling centres each time, but most of their needs remain yet to be addressed. This time also, there are such high hopes among citizens. A traffic jam free Dhaka city is the most needed among them. A proper sidewalk, with no hawkers on it of course, needs to be ensured. Proper parking facility for vehicles beside the roads is also a reasonable one. Every day, when we come out on Dhaka's roads, life becomes a story of hassles. Vehicles get stuck on roads for hours. It even takes more than two hours to travel an eight-kilometre-distance. Thousands of people walk across the road in full traffic. The traffic police play almost a dumb and deaf role there.
There are inconsiderable sidewalks for the passersby, which remain almost covered with temporary shops and beggars. In addition, motorbikes run on them during traffic rush. These irrational acts and behaviours leave a little space for the passersby to use them. To add insult to injury, there continues unplanned and unnecessary digging of roads by some government organisations, which have established themselves as one of the greatest trouble makers for the citizens. The authority seems to have enough interest to dig in the middle of roads but certainly lack any intention to cover the holes which may create an accident at any time.
Khaled, an SSC examinee of this year, was sharing his bad experience on the way to exam centre. There was an accident where the authority dug a hole and the road was blocked due to immobile traffic. He was stuck for an hour and when he reached the centre, he already missed half an hour of his exam time. Romana, a working mother, one day suddenly found out the whole road in front of her house at Mohammadpur was dug and there kept no space for a car to pass. She unsurprisingly got late for her office and from then onwards she has to spend more than an hour on the way. Hardly any man in Bangladesh takes delight from open dustbins overfilled with waste materials. But this is a common scene of today's Dhaka and Chittagong. Some overpopulated areas of Old Dhaka, Bihari Camp and few other areas make us think if the people are living on wastes here. Our past Mayors have done nothing to execute any plan to clean and process these huge waste materials. People seek in these likely Mayors to hold least sympathy for them in solving such thousands of odds.
Waste collecting vehicles openly roam on the roads every day. They move among the high traffic and keep the top of the vehicle uncovered so that all the people around get their share of terrible smell. While their moving, waste materials keep dropping on roads and even on passersby, sometimes. Crows hover over these vehicles to collect their food from wastes and while flying, they sometimes drop them on people and vehicles around. This whole scenario is completely disgusting but seems to be a part of our daily life for years.
Our children hardly have a playground today. They are completely away from open field activities and for the whole day these kids remain busy with the gadgets and television. Their mentality is being boxed these days. There are few fields in Dhaka which are also under the control of certain politically affiliated clubs to where our children have no access. For a child, physical games are highly necessary while parks, at least, for entertainment. There is no such good park. The few parks we have are captured by all sorts of unlawful acts. There is no way we can visit those parks with kids. We hope our future Mayors think about the growth of the children and arrange some playgrounds and places for entertainment.
Both the cities get into deep trouble whenever it rains. Especially the Chittagong city dwellers suffer terribly during the monsoon season as the roads go under huge logged water, even the road to the airport. Mayors had been changed several times but the port city citizens remain floating in flooded areas owing especially to sheer negligence of City Corporation officials. The same scenario exists for many areas under Dhaka North City Corporation and Dhaka South City Corporation, too. People have suffered for years. An integrated planning and effort of these city corporations can provide sustainable solutions to these problems.
The Buriganga, once the pride of Dhaka city, has become the dirtiest waterway of Dhaka city today. The black water makes us feel sick, and elders give sighs of discontent looking at the condition of their beloved Buriganga; once a river with tidal flow now out of breath. Both sides of the river are captured by people and waste materials from surrounding areas are dumped into this river. With other waterways inside and around Dhaka and Chittagong cities are also moving towards the same fate. The city corporations can easily undertake properly planned and strict actions to save these rivers and waterways. Will our next Mayors do that?
There are several other issues, concerns and problems which ride on the shoulders of the inhabitants of Dhaka and Chittagong as a burden every day. We have talked about very few because our previous City Mayors and Ward Councillors had committed multiple times to solve these problems during last 20-25 years.
But they did not. Maybe, these issues are too big to deal with but it is a matter of shame that they did not even give an attempt. Now, we can only hope that our new Mayors and Ward Councillors take an attempt to bridge the gap between our expectation and reality. And their attempt will at least bring some fresh air in our everyday's suffocating life - with this hope, people will go to polling centres once again.
Kaushik Ahmed is a freelance writer