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Challenges ahead for the new Gazipur mayor

  • Published at 01:03 am June 29th, 2018
  • Last updated at 06:51 pm June 29th, 2018
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Gazipur mayor-elect Jahangir Alam and his campaigners show victory signs on June 26 few hours before the final vote count Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Despite being constituted in 2013, the city corporation has still no master plan for the city’s development

Based on the area it covers, the Gazipur City Corporation is the largest in Bangladesh and it is suffering from a number of urban crises, including poor road connectivity, traffic jam, waterlogging and pollution, making life in the city not only difficult, but slowly unbearable.

Despite being constituted in 2013, the city corporation has still no master plan for the city’s development.

Awami League leader Jahangir Alam, after winning the June 26 city corporation election, is now set to take office as the newly elected mayor, and his hands will surely be full with the problems that he will have to tackle head-on.

According to the Election Commission, the mayor elect will be able to take office only after July 6 when incumbent Mayor MA Mannan’s tenure will end.

The big question on everyone’s mind now is – will Jahangir be able to solve the massive problems that are plaguing the city?

A businessman-turned-politician, Jahangir, however, is confident that he will find solutions and make the city liveable.

“I have big plans for the Gazipur City Corporation. I am already preparing a master plan for the city. And after taking charge, I will have the government approve it, with an aim to build a planned and better city,” he said.

“Every aspect like road networking, waterlogging, traffic jam, zoning for residence and the industries are being considered in the draft master plan,” he said.

In last five years, Mayor Abdul Mannan, a BNP leader, reportedly failed to carry out a single development task in the city corporation. This agitated the citizens who were deprived of progress and a better life.

This time however, voters said that they felt the Awami League candidate will be able to do some good for them and the city, as his party is in power. As an Awami League leader, Jahangir can make that happen by bringing in government projects and developing the city.

City without master plan

Having no master plan in effect since 2013, the Gazipur City Corporation has no zoning system, which means many industries, mills, factories, residences and even agriculture farms are built inside the same area.

The factories do not generate noise only; they also pollute the waterbodies and farmlands in the surroundings.

The city corporation is yet to come up with plans regarding residential areas and improvement of health and education systems.

Jahangir admitted that these were major issues. “But I am preparing a master plan for all of these and considering implementing it in short, mid or long term basis.”

Poor road connectivity

During visits to many areas of the city in the last few days, it was found that most roads were narrow and many high-rise buildings, mills and factories were towering them. If a truck or a covered-van entered these narrow roads, the result turned into severe traffic snarls.

Also, most of the major arteries in the city of five million are rundown – disabling vehicle movement at normal speed.

Jahangir said: “Previously I was an upazila chairman within the Gazipur city, and in my experience rich people are the biggest obstacle in widening the roads. Now I am taking charge of the city corporation and am confident that I could handle these influential individuals in widening these roads.”

No railway network

Many people in Gazipur take the trains to go to Tongi and Dhaka from Joydebpur because of traffic jams on the roads. But trains are not always available.

Bangladesh Railways in 2014 had started a project to set up a double line between Joydebpur and Tongi to ensure better train communications. But the project’s progress is still below 2% even after four years.

Gazipur city dwellers hope their new mayor would discuss the matter with the railways authorities and have them speed up the project.

Traffic jam

Two major highways – Dhaka-Mymensingh and Dhaka-Tangail – and around six other district roads, which are maintain by the Roads and Highways Divisions, go through Gazipur city.

While this might be good for connectivity, the citizens immensely suffer due to constant gridlocks on the two highways.

Nurunnabi Sohag, a banker who travels between Joydebpur Chourasta and Tongi every day, said: “Its only 10 kilometres, but it takes two hours in the morning and more than that in the evening. However, if the authorities concerned take responsibility and deploy more traffic personnel, travel between these two points will take just 30 minutes.”

Meanwhile, every day at least 45 trains go through the level crossing in the Joydebpur Bazar area, one of the busiest in the city, causing massive tailbacks all the time.

Waterlogging

The total area of Gazipur City Corporation is 329 square kilometres, but it does not have storm drains to let out the waters after heavy rains, which leads to waterlogging, traffic jam and public suffering.

The authorities do not even have a plan for improving the city’s drainage system.

Some of the surface drains cover only 10-12 km area of the city.

Konabari, Chandana Chourasta, Bason, Gacha, Bhogra, Choydana and Boardbazar are some of the city’s busiest areas, and they do not have a proper drainage system. After heavy rains, these areas always suffer from waterlogging.

Internal feuds

To ensure their victory in the Gazipur city polls, Awami League’s biggest challenge was to resolve the internal conflicts between its local leaders.

Central leaders of the party had urged them a number times to resolve their issues for the greater good.

With Jahangir’s triumph over the BNP candidate, Hasan Uddin Sarker, political analysts have said that the internal feuds could come to a proper end.

But being younger than other Awami League leaders in Gazipur city, it might be tough for Jahangir to carry out development work if the senior local leaders do not cooperate with him.

Lack of funds

According to the rules, a city corporation operates based on its own fund, which comes from holding tax, trade licence and other fees.

Being one of the new city corporations in the country, Gazipur has generated below Tk400 crore in the last five years, forcing the government to subsidise for smooth operation.

Apart from that, the government also approved a Tk600-crore block allocation for this city corporation last year, which is still not enough for an improved and planned city.

One of the biggest challenges new mayor would face would be finding development partners with bigger contribution of funds for the betterment of the city.