Street vendors made it almost impossible for pedestrians to walk on the footpaths in Mirpur Circle 10 area, and cars and rickshaws parked beside the road worsened the problem.
Evicting the vendors did not solve the crisis as they returned as soon as the law enforcers left the area.
Against this backdrop, the Dhaka North City Corporation has taken up a new project to manage the street vendors and free up walking space on the footpath.
The project, which is currently in its pilot phase, allows footpath shops to operate only from 4 pm to 10 pm in designated zones. Brac is working together with Dhaka North to manage the vendors.
The Dhaka North City Corporation's project has already brought most of the street vendors of Mirpur 10 area under the system instead of evicting them. Besides, the city corporation will also provide job opportunities for the street vendors who would be free other than 4-10 pm.
Currently, street vendors can run shops five days a week. The sellers cannot keep any goods on the footpath other than the business hours.
The Dhaka North City Corporation is planning to bring all the street vendors under its management based on the observations it makes during the pilot project in the Mirpur 10 area.
Visiting the Mirpur 10 area, it was found that there were almost no street vendors on the footpaths before 4 pm.
Residents of the area have welcomed the Dhaka North's initiative. The street vendors are happy too as they do not have to live in fear of eviction.
Sushmita Das, a resident of Mirpur-10, told The Business Standard, "The footpaths are now largely empty so walking on it is not as much of a problem as before. However, hawkers still keep shop furniture on the sidewalks. We want full implementation of the initiative."
Jahangir Mia, a street vendor of this area, told TBS, "It would be great for us if the city corporations want to bring us under management instead of evicting us. Now they allow us to run business for only six hours and we sit on footpaths only during that period of the day. Even if the income is low, there is no fear of eviction."
The vendors said they have asked for some time to build mobile shops as per the conditions of the city corporation. They hope to make such shops within this month.
Under the project started on 19 September, street vendors will not be allowed to construct permanent infrastructure on the sidewalks. Besides, no fees will be collected from them.
Md Humayun Rashid Johnny, councillor of Ward 14 in Dhaka North, told TBS, "We can bring the vendors in Mirpur-10 area under complete management within this month. We are collecting information on hawkers in this area through an app called 'Street Vendor Management in Public Space'. So far, we have received the information of about 1,600 street vendors. There are about 2,000 hawkers in this area.
"We will fully implement the management programme after collecting everyone's information. Those who have more than one shop will be allowed to operate only one. We will also gradually create job opportunities for them in different organisations based on their interest."
The first meeting of Dhaka North City Corporation regarding the programme for street vendors was held last 12 September. Prior to that, the city corporation decided to run a pilot project in a board meeting.
As per the decision of the board meeting, no vehicle will be allowed to stop in the specific areas of the roads around Mirpur Circle 10. Public places will be marked as hawker-free zones. Vendors will be allowed to sit in designated areas according to the type of their products.
The street vendor management committee will verify and prepare the list and database of hawkers. A monitoring team will be formed at the regional level to maintain normal movement of public, fair business environment, order and cleanliness on the footpaths.
According to Dhaka North City, public representatives will assist in managing the street vendors. Besides, cleaning staff will be employed to remove the waste.
Maqsud Hashem, chief town planner of Dhaka North City Corporation, told TBS, "The core of our initiative is to create a policy for street vendors. We are preparing a list of area-based hawkers to accommodate them.
"There will be a specific place marked on the pavement where the shops should be set up. Shops must be set up on the footpath leaving a pedestrian walkway."
He also said a policy would also be developed regarding the street vendors as they tend to occupy footpaths haphazardly even after eviction.
Md Washim Akhter, programme coordinator to Brac Urban Development Programme (UDP), told TBS, "We have developed a working framework with the Dhaka North City Corporation to manage street vendors. We want to bring them under a system without evicting anyone and without causing any problem to pedestrians. Our review process is going on in the piloting area, but our work has not formally started yet."
Dhaka North City Mayor Atiqul Islam told TBS, "There is no alternative to sustainable management to make the sidewalks free of vendors. We will develop a model for hawkers and bring it into the policy. Like developed countries, we will introduce holiday markets and evening markets on less busy roads."
The Dhaka South City Corporation has also taken steps to free the footpaths from vendors last month. Roads are divided into red, yellow, and green zones according to their importance. The redo zones, which are the busiest streets, suffer the most due to the street vendors who return to the area despite repeated drives conducted by the authorities.
Welcoming the initiative to regulate the street vendors, Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP) President Mohammad Fazle Reza Sumon told TBS, "The eviction of hawkers is never a sustainable solution. We have advised Dhaka North and South city corporations several times to bring them under management instead of evicting them.
"No form of muscle power can be used in managing hawkers. If there is muscle power, the plan will not work."
Almost all countries across the world have hawkers or street vendors. Hawkers are also doing business by following rules in our neighboring countries. In Thailand, hawkers are allowed to sit on a part of the sidewalk at certain times. After a certain time, they clean the garbage around their shops and throw it in a certain place. Malaysia has designated areas for hawkers too. Several countries including India have holiday markets. Kolkata has designated areas for hawkers.