Upon arriving in Rajshahi city, one will feel the difference by breathing its fresh air. Anyone visiting the city will be charmed by its greenery, clean and eye-catching four-lane main roads, and the wide footpaths.
No dirt and garbage is piled up anywhere in the city whereas the big cities, including Dhaka and Chattogram, of the country are virtually covered with dust. Rajshahi city has earned the world recognition for cutting down the amount of dust particles in the air.
Various colourful plants have been planted on the footpaths and central reservations. Besides, the trees on both sides of the city protection embankment have added to the greenery.
The city at night is also beautiful. Red, blue and yellow lights illuminate the streets at night. The intersections have been named after historically important events and persons such as Shaheed Smriti Chattar in remembrance of the 1971 Liberation War, Shaheed AHM Kamaruzzaman Square and Mintu Chattar.
Various eye-catching installations, including Lalon Shah Mancha (stage), Simla Park, I-embankment, T-dam and Baro Kuthi, have been built along the bank of the Padma River flowing right beside the city.
The oldest museum of the country – Barendra Museum – is in Rajshahi city. Besides, there are more than 100 educational institutions in the city.
"Dhop Kal" – the old system of supplying pure drinking water installed by Rani Hemanta Kumari Deb in different parts of the city – is a reminder of her. She was a zamindar of Puthia Raj family in Rajshahi district.
However, traffic jam and unfinished work of some multi-storey buildings have overshadowed the charm of the city.
Rajshahi City Corporation sources said every day 1,372 cleaning workers work on a daily-wage basis to keep the city clean. They go to every residential house, business firm, and government and non-governmental organisation in 30 wards and collect waste from afternoon till late at night using 350 vans.
The collected wastes are kept in secondary transfer stations in every ward of the city. From there, the garbage is carried to the dumping ground near the suburbs of the city. Besides, the wastes collected from the drains from morning till noon using vans are also kept in the secondary transfer stations.
Sweepers clean all the streets and main roads from nine o'clock at night.
The city corporation has set up dustbins at important crossings in the city. Waste bins have also been placed in the shopping malls.
Sheikh Md Mamun Hossain, chief conservation officer of Rajshahi City Corporation, said, "In addition to 28 secondary transfer stations for collecting wastes, there are three ultra-modern transfer stations in the city. Waste is directly thrown by machine from the vans to trucks in these transfer stations. So, we do not need to keep wastes in these stations. The ultra-modern transfer stations will be set up in every ward in phases."
He also said the city corporation regularly sprays insecticides for destroying mosquito larvae in every drain.
"As a result, when dengue fever spread like an epidemic all over the country, Rajshahi enjoyed immunity," he added.
Under the tree plantation programme, one lakh trees have been planted in the city over the last two decades so far, according to city corporation sources.
The incumbent city mayor, AHM Khairuzzaman Liton, took a project named Zero Soil in 2009 after taking office in his first term. Under the project, trees and grass have been grown on the soil of the city. Besides, numerous trees were planted on the city's central reservations and footpaths.
Last year, 14,000 trees were planted on the roads and footpaths. Around 200 jasmine (sheuli) flower plants on the embankment from C&B intersection to Bheripara intersection were planted. Some 200 Chhatim (blackboard tree or devil's tree) trees and different colourful flower plants from the C&B intersection to Shaheed AHM Kamaruzzaman Square were planted.
Ashraful Haque, chief engineer of the city corporation, said, "We have planted trees on the central reservations and footpaths so that city dwellers can get both shade and fragrance. We also have plans to plant shady trees of red, blue and yellow colours."
In Rajshahi City Corporation areas, there are 50 kilometres of four-lane roads and 35 kilometres of footpaths. The main drains are 16 to 25 feet wide.
As a result, rainfall does not create water-logging in the city. Still, Tk193 crore has been allocated to solve the water-logging problem.
At present, five projects are going on for the infrastructural development of the city. They are: construction of east-west link road from Rajshahi-Naogaon main road to Rajshahi-Natore road in Mohanpur at a cost of Tk182 crore, drain construction to remove water-logging at a cost of Tk193 crore, road widening and development from Kalpana Cinema to Talaimari crossing at a cost of Tk127 crore, development of different important roads at a cost of Tk172 crore, and a Tk49 crore project for development of roads and drains in 30 wards.
Besides, Tk3,000 crore is supposed to be allocated in January for the city's infrastructure development.
Officials expect that the project will be approved in the meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council this month. Under the project, overpasses at the important rail crossings in the city will be constructed.
"A total of 69 infrastructure development projects, including construction of six flyovers, a central Shaheed Minar, 17 foot overbridges at important points, and 30 public toilets and walkway by graveyards and waterbodies, will be implemented," said the city corporation's Chief Engineer Ashraful Haque.
"Besides, 50 statues of Bangabandhu would be built in the city," he added.
Each important intersection in the city and the Nagar Bhaban are illuminated with red, blue and violet streetlights.
Besides, 16 high-mast lightings have been set up at 16 important intersections at a cost of Tk7 crore. The light is visible from a kilometre away.
The city roads remain clogged with traffic, especially Shaheb Bazar, Ganakpara, Sonadighi intersection, Lakshmipur intersection and Rail Gate area that experience severe traffic jam. It takes 15 to 20 minutes to reach Sonadighi intersection from Shaheb Bazar Zero Point although it should not take more than five minutes.
According to the traffic department of Rajshahi Metropolitan Police, traffic jam is caused by the increased number of battery-run easy bikes and battery-run rickshaws. At least 25,000 easy bikes and 15,000 battery-run rickshaws ply the city streets, as per the traffic department's data.
However, to reduce traffic jam, the city corporation has already decided to launch separate shifts for maroon and green rickshaws and easy bikes. It is giving new registrations to 10,000 easy bikes and 5,000 battery-run rickshaws, and also driving cards to drivers.
Unfinished construction of multi-storey buildings
An initiative to build multi-storey buildings in the city under the public-private partnership was taken during the first term of the incumbent mayor. Construction of the 16-storey City Centre, eight-storey Swapnachura Plaza and eight-storey Daruchini Plaza started simultaneously in 2009.
The construction was scheduled to be completed by April 1, 2014. But as the contractor could not complete the work by the schedule, the city corporation approved an extension.
Although the extension expired on August 8, 2015, construction of not a single building has been completed. As a result, many businessmen have incurred huge losses.
Besides, a kitchen market built at a cost of Tk76 lakh in Terokhadia could not be opened. So, the shop owners are forced to sit with their products on the footpaths in front of the market to do business.
Chief Engineer Ashraful said, "These are old issues. We have heard enough of this. People do not want to hear this anymore. However, construction of the projects is going on slowly."
The mayor said implementation of the zero-soil project, planting a huge number of trees, encircling footpaths with concrete, introducing battery-run auto-rickshaws, imposition of strict rules on movement of diesel-run vehicles, and reducing air pollution have made Rajshahi a green city.