DHAKA MAYORS: YEAR ONE A good start but still a long way to go

When the two mayors of bifurcated Dhaka took oath on May 6 last year, the residents welcomed their long-awaited mayors with great expectations.

Talking to media after being elected on April 28, ruling party-backed Annisul and Khokon expressed their visions to make Dhaka a liveable city during the very first year of their five-year term.

In their election manifestos, they mostly concentrated on providing better waste management and plantation; reducing waterlogging; recovering footpaths, roads and roadside areas to improve traffic system and reducing jam including other facilities for the residents.

But they stumbled in their very first step – clearing the roads and footpaths across the city.

On May 28, 2015 after holding a meeting with Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, the two mayors had announced that they would free all the footpaths soon.

Khokon launched eviction drives but the illegal occupants resumed their businesses soon after. Annisul, on the other hand, backtracked, saying: “It is a complicated issue … it involves many stakeholders. We are trying to find a sustainable solution.”

Annisul later started eviction drives against illegal parking and successfully freed the roads in Saatrasta, Gabtoli, Mohammadpur, Mohakhali, Tejgaon and Abdullahpur areas.

He has also been successful in shifting the Karwan Bazar traders to the three newly-built kitchen markets at Aminbazar, Mohakhali and Jatrabari. The mayor hopes that around 17 of the 23 bigha land at Karwan Bazar would be freed within December 31, and all the shops cleared by April next year.

Besides this, the construction of 22 “U” loops aimed at reducing traffic congestion would be completed by August this year.

The DNCC has removed around 20,000 bilboards form the streets, housees as well as commercial buildings.

Annisul has also coordinated repeatedly with Dhaka Wasa to take immediate steps to reduce waterlogging in the city in the monsoon. Several projects involving storm water and surface drains are under way.

The DNCC has taken various other steps under Smart DNCC, Clean Dhaka Programme, Traffic Management Programme, Green Dhaka Programme, Secured Dhaka and Future Mega Plan. Most of the projects are likely to be completed by next year.

Meanwhile, DSCC Mayor Khokon has made several attempts to recover the footpaths in the city’s Gulistan area but could not continue the drives properly. The hawkers and vendors occupied the footpaths again demanding rehabilitation.

To reduce waterlogging, the DSCC has improved drainage system in Shantinagar, Rajarbagh and Kanthalbagan area. Following his intervention, the Dhaka Wasa is setting up a pump in Kamalapur which will pump out water during heavy rains.

As many as 81 big waste collection containers have been installed and 10 Secondary Transfer Stations in the DSCC areas.

The DSCC has decided to install LED lights instead of sodium lights as street lamps. This project would be completed by next year. Khokon also taken up various other development projects including installing CCTV cameras, repairing roads, footpaths and drains, building public toilets and plantation.

The DSCC mayor, however, has not taken any step to save the Buriganga River from pollution, although he had pledged to do so in his election manifesto.

When contacted, Annisul told the Dhaka Tribune: “Dhaka is one of the most unhealthy cities in the world. There are various problems in the city, while there are limitations of the city mayors in enforcing power in various sectors.

“One year is a very short time to show a visual change of the Dhaka city.”

The DNCC mayor said most of their projects were at initial stage. He hoped that when completed next year, the city people would see a dramatic change.

Echoing Annisul, Khokon said: “Lack of coordination among the government agencies is a big challenge in providing better services to the city residents. Sometimes we are helpless when other service providers do not lend their hands.”

For this reason, Khokon said that the duo had requested Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to form and lead a coordination committee. In response, the premier has assured them of taking necessary measures.