Bangladesh is becoming a brand for growth and development. Wide new roads, highways, flyovers, and malls are popping up everywhere. It almost looks like a developing cyberpunk city with the prevalence of RGB lights.
Start walking along the city's new streets, the pristine white dividers and road markings looks superb on the pitch black. But you will also notice other everyday items like juice boxes, water bottles, one-time coffee cups, and polythene, littering the ground. This happens because there are rarely any bins to dispose of waste outside.
But don’t start blaming the government just yet. They have tried setting up bins, but people keep stealing them.
I am not demanding another expensive infrastructure project for the betterment of society, but instead I’m asking for a better solution. The key to solving the mistakes we have made is to change our mentality and develop intellectually.
Consider the Mogbazar-Mouchak Flyover. Construction work on the second largest flyover in the country started in 2011 and was supposed to be finished by 2015. But it was delayed and finally opened in 2017. Why do we need flyovers? To reduce traffic jams!
According to statistics from the Dhaka Metropolitan Area, the place was home to 15.3 million people and 72,947 registered vehicles in 2011 and 18.9 million people with 139,748 registered vehicles in 2017. Over these six years people bought new cars to escape the horrors of the persistent traffic situation such as the regular disruptions of public transport and the excessive heat while stuck in congested traffic.
So what is the final result of six years of construction work? People now end up in heavy traffic jams on the flyover. In essence, the flyover has just led to more developed and elevated traffic congestion.
The planners for Dhaka have, so far, shown a limited capacity for long-term thinking and planning. Development work in the capital is often tackled with gusto, but without a proper understanding of the impact of the project or the toll taken on the city’s residents.
It often seems like the capital development authority spends months building a new road while disrupting the lives of locals, only to have that road dug up the next day so WASA can lay down or repair the water lines.
The city seems to be stuck in a constant rut of development for development’s sake instead of following a carefully thought out and systematic plan for improvement.
Dhaka and its residents have numerous needs that are not being met properly. But instead of just picking up a shovel and starting to dig, we need a clearer idea of where we aim to go.
This article was written for Stripe, bdnews24.com's special publication with a focus on culture and society from a youth perspective.