• Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Divided Dhaka nearly out of service

Miseries of city dwellers mount as fund crunch, red tape, poor action plan down 2 corporations

Tawfique Ali and Helemul Alam
A large skip spreading bad odour on Rokeya Sarani near Agargaon in the capital. Garbage is left on the streets since DNCC and DSCC have only a handful of stations across the city to process it. Photo: Sk Enamul Haq
A large skip spreading bad odour on Rokeya Sarani near Agargaon in the capital. Garbage is left on the streets since DNCC and DSCC have only a handful of stations across the city to process it. Photo: Sk Enamul Haq

The arbitrary bifurcation of Dhaka City Corporation without any financial capability assessment has resulted in severe fund crisis for the southern part of it, stalling almost all its development work.
The north city corporation, which is comparatively healthy in overall annual budget, is also complaining of a fund crunch in basic public services like road repairs and mosquito control.  
At least half of around 2,500km city roads are in a battered state requiring urgent attention, according to information available and field visits.
Two years ago, the government split this vital local government body by  putting up a makeshift office for the north city corporation and vowing to improve civic amenities.
City dwellers, however, expressed outrage over poor public service. They even do not know who to seek respite from since both the corporations are led by short-term bureaucrats, as unelected administrators are replaced every six months.
DSCC
The split left Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) with inadequate revenue earning sources, leading it to an accumulated debt of Tk 250 crore over just a couple of years.


The undivided DCC had no debts because a major part of its revenue used to come from the expanding northern part. The DSCC, however, deals with the older part of the city which is settled and full of old structures that generate less revenue, say DSCC officials.
As a result, the south corporation has stopped all development and infrastructure works except for addressing some emergency works, said immediate past DSCC administrator Mohammad Alamgir.
"The DSCC has accumulated the debt due to poor revenue income against its huge expenditure," he said, adding that if the crisis continues regular work will be severely hampered, affecting lives even more.
A DSCC official said as the authorities had to do many maintenance and development works, like repairing roads and purchasing chemicals for killings mosquitos, they failed to pay their contractors in due time.
Now, routine public services like waste management, mosquito control, maintenance of city roads and health services are all in a mess.
Many lanes and by-lanes in the old town lack street lights while nearly half of the 1,300km roads, lanes and by-lanes under DSCC need maintenance, but the corporation can do nothing due to the fund crisis.
The crunch severely affected DSCC's mosquito control drive. This year the corporation received less than one-fourth of the required 3.30 lakh litres of adulticide and one-fifth of needful 2.5 lakh litres of malaria Oil-V.
Three hospitals -- Dhaka Mahanagar General Hospital, Dhaka Mahanagar Shishu Hospital and Nazirabazar Matrisadan -- are at present unable to provide free medicines to patients and stopped purchasing necessary equipment.
At Shishu Hospital, where around Tk 46 lakh was spent on clinical equipment and Tk 4.50 lakh on surgical materials in 2011-2012, it came down to Tk 10 lakh and zero respectively in this fiscal year.
At Dhaka Mahanagar General Hospital, Tk 27 lakh was spent for medicines and Tk 3 lakh for surgical materials in 2011-2012. But the budget dropped to Tk 20 lakh and TK 2 lakh in the current fiscal.
Staff salaries and other expenditures also come from revenue earnings, but the DSCC had to depend on government allocations for infrastructure development works.
The revenue also ensures money for different ventures of DSCC -- three hospitals, one college, 12 music schools, seven libraries, the national Eidgah, three graveyards and so on.  
In the last fiscal, the DSCC targeted a revenue income of Tk 459 crore. But it received only Tk 320 crore. This year, it has targeted Tk 558 crore. Even if it hits the target, it will be still left with Tk 100 crore deficit, said officials.
A DSCC official said they could not achieve the target, as they had failed to run the newly constructed wholesale kitchen markets in Jatrabari and collect taxes from some other markets due to legal complications.
In the current fiscal, the DSCC submitted a project proposal worth Tk 282 crore to the local government ministry for maintenance of roads in the current fiscal year, which is now under consideration, said an official.
Under the project 130km road, 122km drains and 31km footpaths of five zones of the DSCC would be repaired, he said.
The target areas are Dhanmondi, Kathalbagan, Shukrabad, Panthapath, Nilkhet, Eskaton, Palashi, Khilgaon, Banasree, north and south Goran, Sipahibagh, Meradia, Bashabo, Madartek, Arambagh, Shahjahanpur, Shanti Nagar, Hazaribagh, Nawabganj, Bangshal, Satish Sarkar Road in Gendaria, North Jatrabari, Dhalpur, Dholaipar and Jurain.
Secretary of the Local Government Division Monzur Hossain said the authorities of the DSCC would have to find out alternative ways of earning revenue.
DNCC
Derelict roads, mosquitoes, poor waste management and messy urbanisation even affected such affluent areas as Gulshan, Banani and Uttara under Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), said locals.
More than half of nearly 1,200km roads and footpaths in 82 square kilometre area of DNCC have been in battered condition for the last couple of years.
Most of the 393 kilometre roads in Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara and other adjacent areas are full of small and big potholes.
Shaila Yasmin Tanu, a resident of Uttara, said many roads there had been in awful condition for quite a long time. "We struggle to find a better road when we go out," she said.  
Brig Gen Abul Khair, chief engineer of DNCC, said they could repair only 150 kilometre roads and footpaths with the annual allocation.
DNCC Chief Executive Officer BM Enamul Haque said they needed Tk 560 crore for road repair work all the year round.
He said they had spent Tk 401 crore out of a total income of Tk 456 crore in the last fiscal year. The major sources of their income include holding, advertisement and market taxes, and various license fees.
The DNCC, however, took up a Tk 115 crore lavish facelift scheme for only 22 kilometre road and drains for the recently-concluded cricket world cup.
It had awarded the work to the army and some beautification schemes to private advertising firms without any tender or competitive process.
"During last winter, the north city corporation sprayed mosquito repellent in our area only once," said Harunur Rashid, manager of an apartment building near Gulshan-Banani Lake.
He said despite repeated requests corporation officials had not turned up for the regular drive to control mosquitoes.
Rafique Ahmed Siddique, president of Gulshan Society, said the society had bought DNCC eight fog machines in the winter of 2012 for spraying mosquito-killer chemicals.
The DNCC area roughly generates a total of 2,500 tons of domestic and clinical waste every day, but the city corporation had to leave out one-fifth of the waste due to a poor collection system, said Capt Bipan Kumar Saha, chief management officer.
Gulshan resident Mahbub Hossain, who does not know who to approach for services, said people had stopped going to the city corporation for issues other than paying taxes and registering births and deaths.
During The Daily Star's last visit to the DNCC a few months ago, the service seekers were mostly looking for welfare funds, slaughter house leases, new holding numbers and trade licences, and holding tax payers.
Though a local government body, DNCC Administrator Md Anwarul Islam Sikder said he considered the corporation as any other government office.
"I have no scope to do anything new or chase a vision, as my six-month tenure will get exhausted just to get familiar with city corporation functions," he said.
Since its formation in 2011, six administrators have so far headed the DNCC.

Published: 12:02 am Thursday, May 29, 2014

Last modified: 8:26 pm Thursday, May 29, 2014

TAGS: Dhaka City Corporation DNCC DSCC City corporation out of service basic public services

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