Two Venices of Bangladesh

Dhaka,  Fri,  22 September 2017
Published : 04 Aug 2017, 19:25:10
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A CLOSE LOOK

Two Venices of Bangladesh

Nilratan Halder
Waterlogging on account of a moderate shower is giving Dhakaites a nightmarish time. Pundits have failed to suggest any solution to this recurrent problem. Don't worry, the solution is easy and simple. With ingenuity this intractable problem can be turned to the city people's advantage. Chittagongians will also benefit from this marvellous solution. In fact, two inventive tax officers in Chittagong have not only thought of it but have also been practising it for some time now. They use a boat regularly to attend their office and to return back home.

In Italy there is one of the most scenic and wonderful cities in the world, called Venice. The Venetians have gondolas for their transportation round the year. Just imagine how radically the city can be transformed. Why bother about the endless queues of vehicles, instead think in terms of Dhaka's own version of gondolas which will ply and ferry people. But to do that the need is not to drain out the rainwater, rather it should be retained and connected to the rivers girdling the city. Chittagong has the added advantage of connecting to the sea.

This year, the monsoon has been profuse enough to submerge most areas of Dhaka and Chittagong cities nearly on a daily basis. If the water were retained, the roads would have been more than worthy of boat plying. Many of the hassles could be avoided as a consequence. For example, on innumerable occasions rickshaws lost balance on hitting underwater hidden blocks or large potholes or manholes and thus throwing both passengers and rickshaw-pullers to have a splash in the muddy water. Even cars fail to negotiate the knee-deep or waist-deep water on the road. If there was arrangement for boats, those could easily take up the responsibility of ferrying people like the tax officers of Chittagong.

A list of advantages can be made here. Most of the public buses now running in the capital city are run-down ones. The situation is hardly any better in Chittagong. Those buses could be easily dispensed with. Additionally, the city fathers did not have to pool a fund for importing 4,000 more buses for Dhaka. Import of such buses costs and they also pollute the environment. Even their disposal is a problem.

Instead, the country's indigenous boat would have become an industry. There would be no need for motorising the boats because just paddle or poles would need less energy to push them forward or backward when needed. Still the speed of reaching from one destination to another within the city limit is expected to be faster than the current average speed of seven kilometre an hour. Also the presence of water all around would have kept the environment much cooler to the extent that  offices would hardly require air conditioning. Also the atrocious honking by vehicles could be done away with leading to elimination of sound pollution.  

The development of local boat industry is a most alluring economic prospect that cannot be overlooked. Also traders will enjoy lower cost for transportation of goods and commodities. Even hawkers or ferywallahs will find in it an opportunity of bringing their wares right up to the buyers' doors. And all this with little manual labour! Today, some of the city's vendors carry heavy loads either on their heads and shoulders but once the boats are introduced, they will enjoy the boat ride free of extra burden. Boats will not be competing to overtake each other because the existing roads will not allow more than one to ply at a time. If they proceed in a line, there is not likely to be any 'boatjam'. Most importantly, the traffic police will not be able to wield the tyrannical power of regulating traffic. Instead, a new system of water traffic will be introduced at the crossings.  

So the prospect of turning both Dhaka and Chittagong the Venices of Bangladesh should be considered without much ado. A separate traffic division, preferably under the city corporations, instead of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) will have to be created. In the winter and lean season though, water may be pumped into the city to keep the water level reasonably high. So let's not lament over water-logging but put it to the commuter's advantage.
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