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Overcoming the resistance to change

  • Published at 12:00 am January 16th, 2020
Narayanganj Building
Civil defence officials while rescuing trapped people inside the collapsed building Dhaka Tribune

Improving city services and governance

Resistance is the biggest impediment to change, and it took a while before corporations realized they need a separate cell to implement change.

It takes time, but is doable within a time frame. It’s the philosophy of the individual’s mindset where the biggest challenge lies.

If well-structured organizations can find it difficult, imagine the complexities of the loosely structured governance the aspiring mayoral candidates are taking, even as they seek public votes to office.

Years of neglect to the city services and the ensuing habits of the citizenry, more so in the older city, have caused outmanned utility services and corruption to come in between restoring basic services.

Given the challenges, the municipal taxes are a pittance for the kinds of budgets required. In a federal taxation system, it leaves the city corporations dependent on government funding, not just to maintain services, but to improve them further.

The major issues of water-logging, traffic snarls, sewerage, encroachment, and cleanliness of canals are the usual complaints of the citizens, and experience suggests that not much can be done to improve these situations.

The root of the problem is and always was unplanned development that also suffered from a sorry lack of coordination. Political governments have been reluctant to create a city government that could address the issue of coordination.

Unfortunately, with the mega projects further exacerbating matters, even a city government may now not be enough to begin to solve the problems.

The mayor and counsellor aspirants will be making promises beginning from shortlisting to mega plans. In the absence of well-thought-out plans to tie in with megaprojects, most of these plans will remain as such.

For truly effective plans, a combination of thoughts ranging from architects and engineers to urban planners all connected with the five-year plan is required, but nothing to that effect has been heard of from the aspirants.

Their campaigns are more of playing to the crowds.

Involvement of the community, including the Gulshan and Banani societies, supplemented with strong will and sufficient political backing, provided some hope in the past when the late Annisul Huq was in charge of Dhaka North.

With his demise, most matters have returned to as before, and his successor has had a fairly long orientation process. It’s all very easy to promise a Singapore-like scenario for Dhaka. 

What we often forget is that for all the trappings of modernity, the city-state is one of the tightest controlled police cities in the world. Whether the Dhaka citizens will accept such a situation is doubtful.

The continued inflow of migration and the growing slums have forced government thinking into concrete multi-stories for the poor. With a scarcity of land, especially dwindling crop acreage, the realism of such projects also requires deep thought.

Mere buildings don’t solve the problem. Well-planned ones with sufficient utility services for the future are a must if this dying city of ours is to be saved. There’s corruption out of the city corporation gambit, without suggesting there isn’t any within.

City governance of qualified persons adequately empowered is a concept that is now a crying need.

At the end of the day, it is a mindset that has to change among the citizens -- from the disposal of waste and garbage, to simple everyday street etiquette such as crossing roads. In aid of these, adequate zebra crossings and parking spaces, especially in front of shopping malls and residences, have to be ensured.

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.

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