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The Dhaka of our dreams

  • Published at 05:27 pm February 8th, 2019
Vehicles are seen stuck in a heavy traffic after office hours in Dhaka city Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Why we are still one of the least liveable cities in the world

The media has been disseminating about the impending city polls of Dhaka North; at the same time, it is also agog at statements that have been flowing out from the possible candidates who would be contesting in the polls. 

One of our possible candidates have started his initial campaigns, and is quite visible on social media where he has appealed to the people to stand together and build a better Dhaka city. This is certainly a great sign, as a potential mayor is requesting the dwellers to aid his cause.

First of all, we must think of making the city sustainable. We won’t sustain very long if we don’t do anything about it. Our sewage system doesn’t work properly, our underground water level has been going down, our rivers are polluted with dangerous chemicals, our air is polluted with dangerous particles, we don’t have any discipline on the roads, we are increasingly losing trees from the city, and so on. A city cannot run like this. 

The other day, I was reading a report on how a travel and tour company has been working at the Inca city Machu Picchu to help pave the way for wheelchair users to go up to 8,000 feet and see the ancient city. I couldn’t help but instantly think of my city. Where a travel company can work for the wheelchair users to go that high, we in Dhaka cannot even imagine whether a person on a wheelchair can go from one corner of the road to another. 

When I first visited London, I observed with awe that all wheelchair users were moving on the pavements and crossing streets without any hassle. The infrastructure is built in such a way that they can move around easily within the city.

The best cities of the world haven’t achieved this overnight; they had to do a lot of things to synchronize its people with nature as well as man-made infrastructure. It works both ways. The infrastructure would have to grow in such a way that the dwellers can adopt it into their lifestyles. At the same time, the people would have to be eager and educated enough so that they follow a systematic way of everyday living in a harmonious manner. Both have to understand each other.

It looks like the teeming millions in Dhaka don’t know how to live in a city. It looks like, even after 400 years of its existence, the dwellers of the city don’t know how to cross a road, don’t know how to drive a car, don’t know where to dump their waste, don’t know how to use lavatories. And that’s why we are still one of the least liveable cities in the world.

It takes some effort to make the people aware and habituated to abide by laws and practice civic norms. 

It requires some change in behaviour, and in our communication coupled with round-the-clock hard and diligent work by the officials. Our former mayor, Mayor Annisul, had started some work; he was seen toiling hard in order to make the city a bit liveable.

Our city has a long history with thousands of architectural gems with rich archaeological value. City authorities around the world have been seen to preserve their heritage. On the other hand, in our mad pursuit to modernize, we have been destroying ours. There will be no sign of these historical structures very soon. 

True that we have to accommodate the ever-rising population. In that case, why don’t we start building other cities to be as important as Dhaka? This is a strategic call to save Dhaka; if we delay in decentralizing Dhaka, we’re bound to be doomed. The city won’t last.

We have recently observed that the authorities are sounding serious about saving the rivers and canals in and around the city. 

We still don’t know how adamant they will be to clear the river banks and clean the water of its contamination. I, again, want to urge the authorities that the city won’t be sustainable if the rivers are not saved. We have already witnessed some ominous signs of destruction.

There are many examples across the world of cities that have fought back from getting ruined. Our Dhaka can also do so; we can also survive if we do the right things. 

Ekram Kabir is a storyteller. He can be reached at [email protected]

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