The two mayors of Dhaka City Corporation have urged citizens to work hand-in-hand in keeping their city clean. But, call it laziness or ignorance, no one bothered to step forward.
When it rains in Dhaka and the roads get waterlogged, no one wants to be left out from playing the blame game.
And it all boils down to the reckless littering on the streets.
We as humans have a tendency of running away from responsibility. We complain about things but do not wish to change it ourselves.
We strive for our rights, but in return, do not wish to perform our duties as citizens.
Article 21 of our Constitution confers the duty upon every citizen to maintain discipline and to protect public property.
Hence, throwing your trash here and there may be considered a violation of the Constitution itself.
Every year, on the occasion of Eid-Ul-Azha, thousands of cattle are slaughtered in Dhaka alone.
Where Islam teaches us “cleanliness is part of faith,” we do not maintain it even on this religious occasion.
Cows and goats are slaughtered openly on the streets. As a result, animal blood, innards, and entrails scatter around almost everywhere in Dhaka for days.
The waste ultimately starts to rot and creates a threat to public health. Many people tend to dump animal entrails in the open drain while others pile them up in the public dustbins.
Hence, these places become a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria.
And it’s not just limited to Eid festivities, throwing garbage on the streets is a common characteristic of Dhaka dwellers.
Ironically, they are always sensitive about the cleanliness of their homes, but do not possess any sense of responsibility when it comes to keeping the streets of their own city clean.
When it rains in Dhaka and the roads get waterlogged, no one wants to be left out from playing the blame game
Therefore, it is not surprising to find mounds of garbage in the alleys of Shonir Akhra or Khilgaon, for example.
Laws against littering
The term “garbage” has been defined in the Local Government (City Corporation) (Amended) Act, 2009. “Garbage” includes dead animals, trash, excrement, leftovers, or any toxic material. Section 1(4) of the act states that the City Corporation is responsible for the timely removal of the waste.
According to Section 92 of the act, all the acts mentioned in the fifth schedule would be regarded as punishable offence. Section 13 of the fifth schedule finds littering as an offence.
It states that “it is an offence if a person throws or keeps rubbish on the street or any place other than that prescribed by the City Corporation.”
Section 93 states that where there is no express provision as to punishments of any of the offences, then he/she may be liable to a fine not exceeding Tk5,000. If the offence is repeated, then the fine shall have increments of Tk500 every day.
There are five established laws on environment in Bangladesh. These acts focus mainly on ecological balance, use of national resources, sustainable development, and pollution control etc.
The Bangladesh Environment Protection Act, 1995 describes the term “pollution” on a broad aspect.
Littering or dumping rubbish in the street may be less significant compared to the definition of pollution in the 1995 Act.
But the consequences of poor waste management in our cities may be considered equally devastating.
The open dustbins around the city spread germs directly in the air, creating the possibility of deadly diseases.
It is impossible to instill a sense of responsibility among those who are habitually untidy. Although the 2009 Local Government Act has ambitious provisions on punishment for littering, they are hardly enforced.
Only a strict liability rule can bring stability, if not total change.
Imposing fines of large amounts is the only solution. One shall definitely be at loss if he has to pay Tk500 for throwing a packet of chips worth just Tk20.
The same people who litter are the ones who complain about dirt and filth on the roads. Laziness or habit, littering in Dhaka has gone beyond control.
Awareness campaigns are not enough, we need stricter enforcement of law.
Aiman R Khan is an Apprentice Advocate, Dhaka Judge Court.