DNCC must free up occupied streets and footpaths
Amid news of the two mayors of Dhaka being granted the state minister status and despite the city literally bursting at the seams, with over a crore people squeezed into its two corporations, it's unfortunate that the city's priorities aren't getting enough attention. Or, even if they are, they aren't getting the kind of response needed. One of the priorities is to have spacious roads and well-maintained pavements. Presently, many streets and pavements remain in a bad shape. They're either going through some kind of repairs, or being put to personal/commercial use, or have parts of them grabbed illegally by building owners, thus obstructing the flow of traffic and pedestrians.
And while all this is going on, local ward councillors are turning a blind eye, firstly, to the suffering of pavement users, for example, and secondly, to the violation of related rules and regulations which they're supposed to enforce. Often, we see parts of streets and pavements being occupied to make steel products or keep raw materials, plastic containers and iron scraps, or simply to park vehicles. Not only does this harm the integrity of concrete roads, those also become narrower and pavements unusable as a result. There is also the problem of canals and drains being clogged.
Despite the occasional drives to evict or free up occupied public spaces, the city corporations have largely failed to make any impact in this regard or take action against illegal users. Just how indifferent the concerned offices are can be understood from the fact that not one councillor from the 54 wards in Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has been able to prepare a list of road grabbers as directed by the mayor over six months ago. According to a report, the mayor gave them a verbal instruction to this effect on January 27. Some councillors defended their inaction by saying there was no follow-up written notice. Some spoke of "confusion" over the contents of the instruction. Others, somewhat justifiably, even spoke of the difficultly and even futility of listing given the political clout enjoyed by grabbers, making it harder to take meaningful action.
Despite the occasional drives to evict or free up occupied public spaces, the city corporations have largely failed to make any impact in this regard or take action against illegal users.
But one thing is obvious: the collective failure of councillors to respond to the mayor's instruction, and the lack of accountability for said failures. It also shows how political considerations often triumph over the interests of ordinary pedestrians and commuters. We urge the DNCC high-ups to take a firm stance in this regard. They must bring councillors into line and urgently free up grabbed or blocked streets and pavements.