From the Editor-in-Chief: Give us back our city

Enayetullah Khan
Thursday, October 26th, 2017
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There is a new narrative about Dhaka, now that it has become vulnerable to nature’s endless fury. As some social media enthusiasts have been noting cheerfully, the city is no more a city but a river. There are some who have been speaking of holidaying on the banks of a River Dhaka. Some others have noted human habitations emerhing from the water in what is a new sea named Dhaka. There was once a movie called ‘Titas Ekti Nodir Naam’. The Titas is now as good as dead. And what we now have is a theme for a new movie called ‘Dhaka Ekti Nodir Naam’.

 

A minister has asked us to consider the water-logging which undercuts life in Kolkata and Mumbai before we moan about our condition. Should that be an excuse for us to go on suffering in Dhaka? Dhaka is now a sinking city. No, it is not threatened by anything like the Karnaphuli dam. Nor is the sea coming towards it to gulp it down in one gigantic movement. It is simply the fact that every time it rains, the capital gets lost in the downpour. It is a condition that has quite become the norm. However, in these last four days, the incessant rains simply made Dhaka disappear under billowing waters, with the roads not being visible at all. Vehicles, from cars to buses and trucks and three-wheelers, went out of order as the water entered the engines. Rickshaw pullers, unable to do much, lost in terms of earnings since there was really nowhere for them to go. Children and adults, compelled to leave home every morning on different normal pursuits, found themselves stranded, often without any means of tiding over the situation. Businesses suffered and hospitals were hamstrung in the provision of services to patients.

 

Over the years, much has been said about the decline of Dhaka, about its poor drainage system. The media as well as broad masses of citizens have been clamouring for years for the city to be given back the old system of drains that once used to carry off rainwater, leaving normal life untouched. It is not that rainfalls are a new phenomenon for the city, since such weather patterns have more or less been a regular feature of its climatic history. The difference between the past and now is that in the old days urban planning happened to be serious business, with citizens getting the assurance and the reality that Dhaka would be a comfortable place of abode for all. Now, with the city rapidly turning into an ugly urban slum, with high-rises completely ignoring the need for a proper and efficient drainage system, even a slight spell of rain leaves people in dire conditions.

 

Can the authorities take the initiative of bringing together leading urban experts and have them discuss the ways and means by which the clean, safe, charming Dhaka we once knew can be restored to us?

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