Though the two city corporations are set to get new chiefs in the upcoming election on January 30, the city dwellers seem least bothered. They neither have faith in the quality of services the city corporations provide nor do they expect that the new mayors will spell magic and bring solutions to the continuing urban woes.
From waste management to the issues of sanitation, security and health, the city corporations' failures are writ large on every nook and cranny of this rapidly changing urban centre. Aside from the lack of amenities and public spaces, Dhaka has become known for its chaotic traffic, polluted air and water as well as encroachment on its waterbodies and four major rivers. The city corporations, which was halved into two separate entities – North City Corporation and South City Corporation – since 2011, failed to provide the basic services to the citizens.
As a result, community bodies have emerged across the city to ensure these services – locals have been forming "kalyan samitis" to take care of the urban problems such as waste management, security, etc. Over the years their presence have made a huge difference and their number is only increasing. Each kalyan samiti or welfare society is run by inhabitants of the locality and named after the locality.
Sahadat Islam Chowdhury Mintu, general secretary of Munipuripara Kallyan Samiti, told The Business Standard that their society has around 1400 holdings with a population of more than 20 thousand. They have their own facilities to fight mosquitoes. They buy medicine and have 50 volunteers to spray the medicine.
"If the city corporations have accomplished the tasks they were supposed have completed and accordingly killed mosquitoes, ensured waste management, etc properly, city dwellers did not have to set up societies. The city corporations are not doing their work, so local societies are growing in the city," said Sahadat Islam.
In the face of complete inaction and poor quality services, the welfare societies across Dhaka are working for the betterment of the area by disposing the waste and keeping the area clean.
Seeking anonymity, a city dweller vents his anger to The Business Standard on Sunday about the clamour about the 'pointless" city corporation election.
He alleged that the city corporations paint a dismal picture as they failed to provide services to the city dwellers. He said that the welfare societies hold their own election and organise events too.
"Citizens do not have any connection either to the representatives or officials," said the city dweller, adding that they do not have any trust on the city corporations and their shoddy services.
"People only go to the ward councillors to get character certificates. Other than that, nobody even knows them," he pointed out.
The city corporation is a powerless body which, on balance, have no control over. The city corporation system is a totally pointless system. Except for a few works, the city corporation cannot make any decision said the city dweller. Therefore, the initiatives of holding this election is pointless.
"Dhaka North City Corporation mayor Annisul Huq made a difference because he could think out of the box. Except for him, nobody can say that the city mayors have done anything," he concluded.
Mizanur Rahman, a social worker, who had been in the limelight last year after protesting against the low-quality water supplied by Dhaka WASA, also echo similar disappointment over the city authority.
He told the Business Standard that he does not expect anything from the city authority except for a few tasks including sweeping roads and waste management.
"In reality, the city corporation is powerless, it can do nothing but cleaning work. I don't have any faith in them," said Mizanur Rahman.
He said that the city corporation has recently done maintenance on some of the roads in the Jurain-Shyampur area. But he alleged that the work was so substandard that it is producing dust all the time.
In 2006, the residents of Monipuripara area decided to set up a welfare society. The society itself works to kill mosquitos and have taken initiatives to smooth disposal of wastes and, in addition, even running a computer training facilities for youths.
Dhaka, a 300 square meters urban jungle, is now smarting under the weight of around two crore people leading the city to the third worst liveable city this year on the globe.
Shanjida Parvin, a housewife who lives in Mohammadpur area, told The Business Standard that the city corporation do not ensure the disposal of solid waste on time. This create public nuisance. "Passing through Humayun road one will not miss that it stinks till afternoon," said Shanjida Parvin.
Mukta Khatun, lecturer of Siddheswari College, who lives in the Mogbazar told The Business Standard that the most important problem in the city as to do with freeing the footpath.
The city corporation took initiatives many times to evict footpath occupants from city roads. But every time, city corporations failed to implement the initiatives as hawkers again occupy the footpath.
"It is hard to walk on the footpath as there are tea stalls and vendors are lined on the footpath. The worst of all is that some people teases women when they pass by," said Mukta Khatun.
Frequent road digging by utility service providers for development works make the city even worse. Construction materials like sand and soil left on the roads increase the air pollution. In winter, when the brick production picks up in the brick kilns on the outskirts of the city, the air quality keeps nosediving. The brick kilns in the city have a huge impact on the air quality of the city.
An increasing number of private cars are hitting the city streets every day. But the public transport like buses are not increasing in proportion to private cars. On an average, 40 private cars were being registered in Dhaka city against the 6 buses per day in 2018. Every day, 15 lakh vehicles ply the city roads.
The government has constructed several flyovers, stopped wrong-side driving and provided on-street parking lot, but the traffic jam could not be stopped. The metrorail and elevated expressway is being constructed to ease traffic jam.
Mohammad Bakul, a 45-year old rickshaw puller came to Dhaka from Kushtia two months back, to make ends meet. A seasonal fruit trader, Bakul incurred loss last summer in litchi and mango trade and finds it hard to pay off the loans.
He is unhappy with the city as he finds it hard to make enough money to pay off the loan money. Most of the time the roads remain congested and vehicles either come to a halt or move slowly.
"If the roads were free, I could make more money. I could pay off the loan money sooner," said Mohammad Bakul.
With the arrival of winter, the pressure of gas decreases to such an amount that city dwellers find it impossible to cook food. In monsoon, waterlogging was a common scene in the city. In summer, water crisis arise.
"We want to get respite from all these problems, we want the city to function properly otherwise, the city will turn into an uninhabitable place. We don't know what lay in store for us," said Mohammad Bakul.