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The Financial Express

Footpaths still under illegal occupation

| Updated: October 20, 2017 23:24:15


Footpaths still under illegal occupation
A country is known by its capital. It does not require one to study in-depth to know what Dhaka city or other towns look like. The image of the country in terms of providing minimal amenities to its citizens is largely dependent on its roads and footpaths. Just start a walk from the Foreign Ministry building in the capital to go to the Shapla Chattar adjoining the Bangladesh Bank head office and at the end, one would simply make a vow not to repeat the exercise. There is every chance that a walker would either be sandwiched among the crowd or be hit by two or three motor-cycles plying on footpaths as roads are full of rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, cars, mini buses and buses. 
 
From Topkhana Road to Motijheel Commercial Area, one could see all the footpaths occupied illegally by hawkers selling shoes, shirts, old books and what not. Moreover, tea-shops and betel-leaf and cigarette vendors are also there on the footpaths. There is seemingly none to evict them as they have 'bought' the spaces by paying illegal toll. They're powerful as they pay regularly to low and mid-level leaders of political parties. Ruling party men are usually the beneficiaries as they have the necessary clout to maintain nexus with the police and officials of the City Corporation. 
 
One cannot simply use the footpath that lies in front of the BSS news agency office at Purana Paltan to the Shapla Chattar via Baitul Mukarram. Any foreigner accidentally visiting these areas will simply curse the country. The very footpaths speak a lot about the capital.
 
According to a survey conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, over 20 million people commute in Dhaka everyday. And 30 per cent of them commute at a distance of 2.5 km on foot. Even the government gave 'priority to pedestrians' in the national integrated multimodal transport policy of 2013. The policy directed clearing of footpaths, construction of wide footpaths and pedestrian-friendly roads, ensuring maintenance and cleaning, creating slopes on footpaths for people with special needs, protecting pedestrians to safely cross the streets and giving priority to pedestrians in the traffic signals. But all these remain just pious wishes till today!
 
According to another study carried out by the Work for Better Bangladesh (WBB) in 2011, 44 per cent of Dhaka's roads do not even have footpaths. And 82 per cent of the existing footpaths are in a deplorable state. A total of 31 per cent of the pedestrians using these footpaths say they get hurt while walking.
 
So when the Dhaka North City Corporation warns of stern action against illegal occupiers of footpaths, the pedestrians take it seriously. At least he did in one case what he really meant: the truck stand at Tejgaon has been removed. But what's about the Mayor of the Dhaka South City Corporation.  The footpaths under his jurisdiction still compel the global rating agencies to call Dhaka one but the worst liveable city in the world. 
 

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