Metro speeds up Dhaka, footpath slows it down
For commuters like Prajukta Roy Chowdhury, a final-year student at a private university, metro rail has been a game changer.
The train now takes her to Motijheel from Mirpur-2 in 25 minutes. Excitement bubbled within her the first time she boarded a metro. The city seemed closer, more accessible than ever.
But her smile faltered after stepping off the train. What had been smooth sailing moments ago transformed into an obstacle course. Vendors spilled onto the footpaths, leaving a sliver of space for pedestrians to navigate.
She had to navigate through footpaths crowded with pushcarts loaded with various goods, from clothing to food items, as customers haggled with hawkers for their purchases.
What should have been a five-minute walk to her destination, which is just 700 metres away from the station, stretched into an agonising 15 minutes.
"During rush hours, you need to push through to move forward; it's embarrassing!" she said.
Echoing her, private bank employee Meer Rasel Ahmed added, "Recently, I travelled to a neighbouring country, and was amazed to see their long, spacious footpaths. But look at ours; we have to struggle to walk on the footbaths."
At least 50 other pedestrians this correspondent talked to expressed the same.
Visiting Motijheel recently, this correspondent saw the footpaths -- on both sides of the road stretching from Motijheel metro station to Gharowa Hotel -- were occupied by street vendors.
Besides, rickshaws and motorbikes of ride-sharing apps were seen parked on the road in front of Sonali Bank head office.
Prof Adil Mohammed Khan, president of the Bangladesh Institute of Planners, attributed the government's lack of political will as the cause of this menace.
"A nexus, backed by politically influential people as well as the administration, has occupied Dhaka's footpaths and is extorting the street vendors. The government knows who they are, but it is not taking any steps," he said.
Prof Adil, also a faculty member at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Jahangirnagar University, said a comprehensive policy is necessary to put an end to this menace.
"The government can establish a biometric identification system for the hawkers and designate specific locations in the capital," he suggested.
Mohammad Shafiqul Islam, zonal executive officer (zone-1) of Dhaka South City Corporation, could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.