Once the euphoria has worn off Dhaka North City Mayor Atiqul Islam will have to get down to brass tacks. On one hand, he has the existing phenomena of footpath encroachment by city vendors and the return of the roadside slums to consider. On the other hand, he has a pile of projects undertaken by but unfortunately not completed by his predecessor Annisul Huq to deal with. Neither is enviable and it will be a combined process of cooperation from agencies and societies and use of the long hand of the law that will determine success,
Huq's herculean task of regaining the truck terminal land has begun to erode in spite of alternate arrangements being made and hawkers are springing up where predecessors once did their business. The Hatirjheel parking facility is well behind schedule and eateries are fast converting the beauty of the facility into another Rabindra Shorobor, designed for open space but ending up in an unholy open food court. The garbage collection process has degenerated into encroachment and the mess emanating from the metro rail and express way construction has added to the headache. Coaching centres, semi-pucca and mobile vendors are thriving in residential areas with indiscriminate parking creating traffic tangles in the side lanes. The traffic police are overwhelmed trying to restore order on the main roads and desperately short of manpower and community policing only having impact in old Dhaka.
While these issues aren't Islam's prerogative, combined efforts have to be coordinated if any of what visions of a liveable Dhaka is to be attained. The challenge lies in evicting businesses that provide for livelihood and reduce crime. Even so, hefty 'rent' is being paid by businesses and it's just a matter of time before one-side parking will extract tolls. Gulshan and Banani have identified alternate roads as single-lane parking that has proved effective. Anywhere else the roads aren't wide enough and there's no coordination in sight. It, therefore, is up to Islam to be the pivotal force in getting ward commissioners to act accordingly and they have their volunteer henchmen to think of. The City Corporation's drive in areas such as Lalmatia to demolish unauthorised shops and establishment did take place but within months were reclaimed and rebuilt. Either permission for commercial establishments were obtained or the law was given a thumbs down. Planned parks and open spaces might be an answer during the day along the lines of car-haats on weekends but more permanent solutions are required. Residential areas such as Lalmatia are already dying and unless something is done will degenerate into extensions of the concrete slums that they have already become.
There's hope yet if Rajuk and the City Corporation get their act together. Short of that we might as well fiddle around and get in the daily altercations with the added menace of motor cycle movement and parking. Pathao is good for commuters but not for residential areas and our good old friend the rickshaw just cannot or will not park anywhere than street corners. Urban planners must be listened to and their recommendations acted upon. Otherwise we can never expect more than 31 per cent turnout for by-elections such as the recent mayoral polls and just wait for Islam's one-year tenure to fritter away.
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