Turning Dhaka into a modern city

Published: December 30, 2019 20:42:53

Local government, rural development and cooperatives minister Tajul Islam candidly shared his frustration over Dhaka city's unplanned expansion, development works and their consequent sufferings for its inhabitants with a group of development journalists. He revealed that the World Bank has made a proposal for a $80 billion project to turn Dhaka into a modern city free of frequent digging, [ ] littered waste and dust. However the minister is unwilling to wait for the project that is yet to take any concrete shape. He will make arrangement for a $2.0 billion fund as part of a city-clean drive. The fund will be used for procuring 20 modern sweeping trucks. No doubt, modern technology can improve the collection and disposal of waste materials and even contain dust pollution to a tolerable level. But as the minister himself has indicated that since different utility services here even do not maintain data of pipelines and cables, it is impossible for them to bring digging works in order.

Unplanned and haphazard development of roads, footpaths and connections of water, gas and electric lines have not allowed development of a ducting system underground. Development of such a network of cables and pipelines can make frequent digging of roads unnecessary. Maybe, the WB has in its mind the development of such a system. However, within the existing limitations, coordination between and among various utility services and city corporations can improve a lot with the right blend of professionalism and commitment. When a project completed by one utility service is followed within months or a year by another's work, there is something definitely wrong with the planning. If it is an emergency repair work, no one complains. But if the footpath is refurbished and then it is dug out soon to lay pipelines of a drainage system, one is likely to discern a certain motive behind such activity.

A modern city, however, cannot be built by avoiding just repeated digging or ground works. A greater source of air pollution is the automobile. Petrol and diesel-guzzling ramshackle vehicles are worse culprits. No wonder, the developed countries are concentrating on manufacture of electric cars. But as long as this happens and the price drops within the reach of the majority of today's car owners, countries like Bangladesh have to think of alternatives. One option definitely is the development of mass transit system like the metro rail. Run by electricity, such transports carry a large number of passengers at a time and also do not pollute the environment. But the network of such transports have to be expanded not only to cover the entire city but also as much area as possible of the country.

Finally, a modern city does in no way cause damage to its water bodies --least of all to its rivers which act as its lifelines. A look at the crystal-clear waters of the river Moscova or the river Seine -- which run through Moscow and Paris respectively - will put inhabitants of Dhaka to shame. A city that fails to take care of its rivers -gifts from Nature -has to pay for its callousness. Dhaka is doing exactly this. Much of Dhaka's regaining its living condition depends on restoration of the health of rivers girdling it.


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