In Dhaka, footpaths not for pedestrians only
It's a 10-minute walk from Farmgate's Ananda Cinema Hall to the Panthapath intersection through Green Road. However, it takes 20 minutes to cross this 700-metre road, thanks to illegal occupants of the footpath.
The grabbers have even managed to occupy half the space on both sides of the road.
The six-foot wide footpath on the route has restaurants, book stalls, coaching-centre booths, stalls to open bank accounts, rickshaw and truck stands, tea stalls, a bazaar, dustbins, and a living space for the homeless.
These correspondents came across this situation when they went on a walk on the road on a Sunday afternoon.
The cinema hall near Farmgate intersection has three makeshift fruit shops in front of it. Moving up a little further, there are three bookstores. Each has an additional seating arrangement in front of them. This leaves only a narrow space, where two people can hardly walk simultaneously.
And then there are a couple of sanitary shops. These shopkeepers leave plastic pipes and some sanitary equipment on the footpath in front of their outlets. A passerby had to jump or go down to the main road to cross the area.
Then comes the tea stalls and food carts, followed closely by the rickshaw and truck stands, which occupy more than half of the walking space, leaving pedestrians no option but to get on the main road.
At the end of the road, many of the city's destitute population were seen in their small makeshift tents, making a home out of the road.
While returning to the cinema hall from Panthapath intersection, five tea stalls, two restaurants, a parking zone, a bazaar, a human-haulier stand, and a van stand were found grabbing the footpath and a portion of the road.
While this is just the western side of the road, a similar picture can be observed on the eastern side, stretching from the cinema hall to Hotel Sonargaon on Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue.
Though the work to replace utility lines was done around a month back, the footpaths are in the same dilapidated condition, making daily commutes tougher for pedestrians.
"I walk through the road every day. It is particularly difficult because of the dust," said Polash Miah, a Mirpur resident who uses the footpath from Karwan Bazar to Farmgate every day.
"The authorities have turned a blind eye to this issue," said Anowar Hossain, a Lalmatia resident who also walks there daily.
What's more concerning is that this picture is reflected in almost every area of the capital.
According to the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), the total area of footpaths under its jurisdiction is 450 square km. The total area of roads is 1,250 square km and that of the drains is 1,350 square km.
In Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), the total area of footpaths stands at only 217.38 square km, excluding the 18 newly added wards.
DNCC Superintending Engineer Khandokar Mahbub Alam said utility works have not been completed yet, for which, they could not fix the spaces on Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue.
He said several organisations, including the city corporation, Desco and the metro rail authorities, are involved here.
"The footpaths will be fixed once the construction of the metro rail station at Karwan Bazar is completed," said Mahbub.
About the occupation of footpaths, he said the city corporations always take action against footpath encroachment. However, certain vested groups occupy the space again and again after the clearings.
"We will continue our drive against encroachers," added Mahbub.