‘There is a lack of sufficient bus stops’
Country Director of ActionAid Farah Kabir said at the roundtable: “Most of the middle-income or lower-income people in our country use public transports for commuting. And alarmingly, women are being regularly sexually harassed in these transports. I think, these crimes will decrease if the perpetrators are caught and severely punished.
“If there is no accountability involved while committing these actions, the crimes will continue happening,” said Farah. “We also have to monitor whether the criminals get away by using outer influence.”
The country director added: “I am worried about the lack of adequate bus stops. If we are living in a civilized country, then why is the government not bothered about the lack of sufficient bus stops?”
‘The only way to keep the streets safe is through reform of public transport system’
“The public transportation system needs reform,” said Dr Shamsul Haque, teacher at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). “Only then will the streets be safe. Accidents and traffic jams all occur because of the disorganized road transport systems.
“Once, the maximum speed limit in Dhaka was 25 km/hr,” continued Dr Shamsul. “But day by day, the speed limit is decreasing, with 7km/hr being the standard vehicular speed at the moment. But the number of road accidents is still increasing.”
Dr Shamsul blamed an absence of organized system as the main reason for the chaotic situation on the streets.
“If you visit Banani, you will see that no car has a scratch on it,” said Dr Shamsul. “Neither will you see a driver behaving badly with passengers. You will not see any passenger raising their hand to stop an on-coming vehicle. This proves that if a strict system is implemented, everything will fall into place.
“Take the example of Uber,” continued Dr Shamsul. “Since the driver knows he is being monitored, he remains accountable. In a similar manner, if public transportation systems are reformed, then the streets will become safe.”
‘Fire services need to increase their capacity’
At the roundtable, Director General of Fire Services Brig General Ali Ahmed Khan opined that current fire services have to increase their capacity to deal with accidents.
“Fire service is mainly an emergency service institution,” said Ali. “Whenever we get an emergency call, we run to save people and property from danger.”
Adding that once a fire starts, it gets hard to control it after 10 minutes, Ali said: “The streets of Puran Dhaka are very narrow. It poses a barrier for our vehicles to pass through. That is why we have started using small vehicles nowadays. We also use motorbikes.
“Even then, we advise people to build houses in such a way that there remains adequate space around them,” said Ali Ahmed.
‘Local trees can be planted instead of foreign trees’
However, Chief Executive Officer of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Khan Md Bilal said that the trees that stand at risk of being uprooted and are planted on the footpath and on the islands in the middle of the streets are regularly looked after.
“We always discourage the idea of cutting trees down,” said Bilal. “Besides, you cannot just cut them down without following rules. I do not know whether the affiliated people follow these rules or not.”
The chief executive officer added that the trees which are less prone to getting uprooted could be planted instead of foreign trees.
“I do not know whether anyone pays attention to the types of trees that are planted on or around the streets,” he said. “Maybe the local trees, which are much stronger, should be planted. I feel the lack of planning here.”
Bilal further said: “Unless it is absolutely necessary, I do not think roads should be dug up during the rainy season. This increases public suffering. However, even when roads are dug, special care is taken to ensure that people do not suffer as much.”
‘Trees would not have been uprooted if they were tended to before the storm occurred’
Dhaka University teacher Nayeem Gawher Wahra thinks that the sufferings faced by people because of the trees uprooted during the recent nor’westers could have been avoided if the trees were tended to before, and after, the storms.
“It is being said that the trees were pulled up because of the 83km/hr wind velocity,” said Wahra. “But I can challenge this fact and say that was not the main reason. Most of the trees planted beside the streets are foreign trees, and their roots are weak, which is why they get uprooted easily.
“Besides, the roads are not cleaned of the debris after the storm passes,” continued Wahra. “Why are the trees cut down after they are uprooted? If they were properly attended to before the storm occurred, then this situation could have been avoided.”
Wahra further said that because the affiliated people do not have any coherent plans to tackle situations like these, chaos ensues.
‘Dhaka needs to be rebuilt by demolishing everything’
The developmental works that are undertaken in the capital are initiated to earn money instead of out of necessity, said the Bangla Tribune’s Head of News Harun-ur-Rashid at the roundtable.
“The different problems in the capital are solved in such a manner that they spawn newer problems,” he said. The head of news further said: “In Uttara airport area, there are bonsai trees on both sides of the streets instead of big trees. I thought, maybe they are nurturing a new culture. However, the flowering plants beside the bonsai are yet to bloom.
“Then the question arises, why are they not blooming?” continued Harun. “Because if they do bloom, then the problem will be solved, and this will mean that no new project will emerge to tackle the situation.”
Harun commented that a system has been created where all problems are left on-going for the sake of kicking off new projects. He provided the example of imported foreign trees that are planted on the streets just to show that something is being imported inside the country and thus gaining profit.
“From my journalistic experience, I can say that officials from the city corporation or law enforcement agencies always provide valuable advice after retiring,” continued Harun. “But you will never see them implementing their own advices while holding the posts. Maybe they face obstacles somehow.”
He further said: “When I walk down the streets, I never think that I am walking in the middle of danger. But maybe that is the reality. From this roundtable, I have come to realize that Dhaka needs to be rebuilt by demolishing everything. However, I do not know if that is going to be possible.”