Shades of city government?

Dhaka,  Thu,  21 September 2017
Published : 07 Aug 2017, 21:57:21
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Shades of city government?

Both mayors have, a little late in the day, thrown in the gauntlet regarding issues close to the citizenry hearts, writes Mahmudur Rahman
When the minister overseeing utility services such as WASA vents anger at the abject failure to deal with monsoon flooding in the city, it isn't unusual. But when he suggests the City Corporation take over the responsibility, the writing is really on the wall. For once, the  WASA chief agreed. If that was surprising the bombshell was dropped by the Mayor of Dhaka North in declining to take on a cancer patient. 

These seem to be the first indications that the city government so passionately advocated by mayor after mayor from the late Mohammad Hanif onwards, might be taking some form of shape. The belief is strengthened by the minister offering his support in treating the cancer.

Both mayors have, a little late in the day, thrown in the gauntlet regarding issues close to the citizenry hearts. While it still echoes silly that they hadn't realised their grandiose plans for the metropolis required control over some of the basic utility services, one gets an idea that the Prime Minister's decision to have a businessman and a politician in charge would force the governance proposal -- time after time for all the promises of better storm sewerage. The never-say-die city-dwellers have grit their teeth, moaned and groaned but suffered in silence as newly laid roads were dug up again and again. Funding for such projects has never been short. Yet amazingly enough, the multiple partners have accepted one project in conflict with another. The Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) of the Planning Commission has often been criticised for not releasing their reports publicly. How the partners survive the stern scrutiny must now be questioned too.

The Roads and Bridges Minister hasn't lived up to his statement of finding out how apparently condemned buses and coasters have reappeared on the roads. With police choosing to ignore unfit vehicles, Mayor Annisul Huq's declaration of launching one thousand new buses would seem to be a case of strict action to pull the ramshackle transport off the streets and filling the void with the new ones. One of the mayor's historic achievements has been freeing Tejgaon from the clout of the transport mafia. But with silent night parking along Tejgaon and the Gulshan Link Road, as well as the main roads of Mirpur, it's as if the problem has been swept under the carpet. One only hopes Obaidul Kader's silence is in sync with Donald Trump's view of not disclosing one's hands, as much as that seems doubtful.

The ten-minute downpours do cause flooding in the capital but also open our eyes to what essentially we have done to ourselves. The twisted plastic and polyester material that clog the drains suddenly become visible and add to what both the City Mayors have been saying. Annisul Huq has been open enough to appeal for suggestions on how to clear forty years of deposits in the drainage. Fair enough. But perhaps the mayors can answer where the Tk 5.0 billion (500 crore) spent on drainage systems went? The Minister for Local Government & Rural Development (LGRD) might want to inform us how the Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded sewerage pipes were sunk if the old ones weren't removed or cleaned? And the Water Minister can tell us in advance how the Tk 6.0 billion (600 crore) planned to be spent on dealing with flood water in the DND area matches up with the other work? Bandaid is useful for a cut or graze; cancer needs chemotherapy. If all of that money was spent on one integrated project, with a metropolitan government including WASA, DESCO, Titas Gas, City Corporation and other auxiliary services, it might well have been different.

Two years ago, as embattled engineers and contractors worked feverishly to apply bandages to gaping potholes, Obaidul Kader promised the Eid journey would be smooth. Later he folded his palms to say sorry. Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain has said next year, city waterlogging would be drained in three hours. The offers are open for bets on he too, saying 'Sorry'. 

mahmudrahman@gmail.com
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