THERE exists an unwritten indemnity for the organisations that implement development projects in the city of Dhaka. They dig up roads and leave them in a messy and disordered condition for a long time, hanging a warning sign reading, ‘Beware, development work is going on.’ In most cases, they take twofold or threefold the time that is actually required to complete the project work. During this period, the damaged portions of the roads along with the construction materials not only put hazards to the traffic, but also pollute the environment to an intolerable scale.
A number of project authorities have reportedly sprinkled water on project sites and their adjoining areas in the city to curb the outrageous onslaught of dusts coming up from development sites. This has perhaps been done in response to public concern against environmental pollution expressed in newspapers and on television for a couple of weeks. This intervention, to some extent, keeps environment pollution under control. But this is done on so small a scale and in such a casual manner that it is hardly discernible by the city dwellers. Besides, construction works carried on by private individuals or real estate companies in residential areas are yet to make any intervention.
Despite the fact that Dhaka has less road space than what is required for being a liveable city, its existing road spaces are always occupied by unauthorised users. Roads going through residential areas are mostly affected by construction work of buildings round the year. Crushing bricks, the piling up of sand, cements, bricks, rods and other materials on the road space in front of project sites are the sources of pollution. People living in a residential area have a number of limitations to protest against these sources of pollution to environment for several reasons. In some cases, the real estate companies are, this way or that way, linked with influential people of the locality and they bother little about ordinary citizens. On the other hand, if any work is done by any house-owner of a locality, there is an added advantage for him to go unchallenged while polluting environment because he, as a neighbour, has already established his influence on other people who are supposed to protest against pollution.
Pedestrians are the worst sufferers. Most of the people who go from place to place on foot belong to the marginalised sections of society and so have little scope to protest against the onrush of public nuisance committed on the footpath and walking spaces of roads. Not only are they victims to different types of nuisance, such as like the displaying of articles for sales on the footpath, the placing of gas cylinders or frying pans of restaurants on public spaces, but sometimes they are to encounter throw-away articles and rotten food stuff while they walk. But if you ask any of the shop owners or pedlars to maintain cleanliness of the public places they use, they are found to respond negatively. As ill luck would have it, the hawker who pays subscription to illegal fund-raisers, will not spend a farthing on sprinkling water on dust around him although he is carrying business on a public place without contributing anything to the public treasury.
Every business, shop and organisation located by the side of a road maybe compelled to take the responsibility of keeping its vicinity clean by sweeping or by sprinkling water. It is impossible for any public authority to do the cleaning job if the owners and users of roads and real estate companies continue to make and keep it unclean. Coercive action is recommendable if it is benevolent for society. The tea-stall owners carrying business on the footpath are to keep the surroundings clean on their own. They are to repair the footpath if the business is responsible for the damage of it. All development authorities must keep the environment clean and must complete the project within time. There remains the question — who is to bell the cat? The answer is not hard to arrive at if we sincerely strive to reach.
Gazi Mizanur Rahman, a former civil servant, is a writer.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Opinion