The observance of the 7th United Nations Global Road Safety Week is on. The incumbent mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) issued a message on the first day of the event on Monday last where he had made a fervent appeal to all 'to work together to create streets that are safe, accessible and enjoyable for everyone'. He also said that since the DNCC understands the importance of road safety, it will create more pedestrian-friendly streets and provide better infrastructure for public transportation.
The DNCC has been trying to make the roads, if not in other places, in posh areas, namely, Gulshan, Banani and Uttara, enjoyable for both pedestrians and vehicle operators. It seems that the Corporation bothers least about other places. Take, for instance, a place called Greater Mirpur, which occupies a large part of Dhaka city. The DNCC deserves kudos for widening and rebuilding almost all the roads in the area and evicting the encroachers which once seemed an impossible task. Undoubtedly, Mirpur now wears a new look with newly paved roads and high-rise structures, residential or otherwise. All eateries of big names, fashion outlets, hospitals and commercial houses have sprung up in recent years. The MRT-6 (metro rail) that is now in operation partially has added a new feather to Mirpur's cap.
Despite having all the modern look and amenities, Mirpur has at least one deficiency---its roads are full of anarchy and least friendly to pedestrians and authorised motor vehicles. Unauthorised battery-run rickshaws swarm all the roads, lanes and bye-lanes from dawn to midnight. Pedal rickshaws have become more of a thing of the past because of the indifference of the DNCC to enforce the High Court order to remove battery-run rickshaws from roads. It is now an open secret who is making how much from the unauthorised and unsafe battery-run rickshaws every month.
Then again, buses use the busy streets as parking lots soon after dusk and some even remain parked there during the daytime. Small traders have converted many roads into marketplaces and vehicles find it very difficult to pass through those. It is better not to mention the state of the pavements, particularly in Mirpur sections 10, 11 and 12. Shopkeepers put their goods on pavements, leaving almost no room for pedestrians. Bike-wash outlets have sprung up in dozens and they keep a large part of pavements and roads occupied. Complaints are lodged with the DNCC on occasion but to no effect.
It has to be, however, admitted that the DNCC people sweep the roads and remove garbage regularly. Residents do not have much to complain about on this issue.
True, the DNCC alone cannot restore discipline on the roads and it needs the support of all quarters. What, however, pains most people is that the Corporation is not demonstrating much interest in making the roads pedestrian-friendly and orderly.
The situation in Mohammadpur and some other areas under the DNCC command is also no better so far as making the roads pedestrian-friendly and enjoyable is concerned. Mere words are unlikely to make things right. Actions, well-directed ones, are needed. The DNCC is also not paying due attention to some other urgent tasks --- restoring the canals to their old states is one such task. Any lapse might prompt many to put the Corporation in the dock during the upcoming monsoon.