Some of us love the earthy smell when it rains. But how does it feel when we see the roads of some areas in Dhaka getting waterlogged because of a sudden downpour?
The rain water gets mixed with effluent from sewage, which people have to avoid warily while reaching their desired destination. Within a few moments after the rain starts, the manholes get crammed with garbage like plastic bottles, polythene bags and many other things which are not supposed to be in there in the first place.
Result? The vehicles submerge, and the roads can no longer be seen clearly, causing pedestrians and vehicles, mostly three-wheeler rickshaws, ending up in unwanted road accidents. 'Of course' the drainage system needs to be developed and the governing bodies of such areas are obliged to improve the situation by covering up the open manholes and other open drainage channels (side drains) on roads or at least put a strainer so that the debris gets prevented from entering into the manholes.
However, in some areas there is a possibility of those lids or strainers getting stolen. But the question is who is to be held accountable for littering recklessly? Where do most of us end up disposing of the left over paper wrappers after eating the popular Bengali street snacks, cotton candies that come with a plastic wrapper and a thin stick or any other packet of chips or biscuits?
The tendency of most people is to throw the remaining disposables on the road not knowing that in most cases, it is a punishable offence under Section 13 which recognises littering as an offence having stated that "it would be held an offence if a person throws or keeps rubbish on the street or any place other than that prescribed by the City Corporation."
The inclination of throwing debris has even made individuals burn to death. According to the Fire Service data, in 2019, total 4,153 fire incidents were caused by burning cigarettes, which indicates that burning cigarettes are behind 15% of total fire incidents! The scenario could have been different if people were cautious and disciplined enough to throw it on a particular place.
How many of us want our homes to be "clean and hygienic"? The answer must be all of us. Imagine a guest suddenly appears at your house and by habit or ignorance; you tend to throw thrash all over your residence just the way you toss them on the streets of your beloved motherland. Would you be happy by the fact that the guests would certainly feel unpleasant being inside your home? Would you wait for the maid to come and clean it? You would not simply let such circumstances arise by not throwing garbage here and there.
About 0.20 million foreign tourists visited Bangladesh in the year 2019, now imagine what picture they had taken in their mind, when they had seen garbage in every step.
The sad reality is most of the people living in this country are prone to have clean homes but are reluctant to play their part in keeping their city clean.
Now, some of us might think that there is no dustbin or proper place to dump such wastes or some other might say that they have never seen any of the bins.
A total of 6,700 waste bins were installed by the two city corporations, Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) and Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) in the year 2016 to encourage the citizens about cleanliness but unfortunately a huge number of the dustbins got stolen by drug abusers and some of them were turned into a trash itself, losing its original shape due to negligence.
The main reason behind the plan's failure was the lack of assessments before implementation and lack of 'public awareness', according to the Urban Planners. But the question is how much awareness do citizens need in order to use a dustbin?
The literacy rate of Bangladesh is 73.91%, yet we lag far behind in terms of maintaining basic hygiene and cleanliness. The matter with some people is, they love to play the blame game, having high tendencies of running away from responsibility and blame the government for each and everything.
Have we forgotten the incident of 'rivers of blood' during Eid-al-Adha in 2016, where the citizens strongly criticized the two city corporations for failing to clean up the sacrificial animal waste? Many others had blamed the authorities for failing to keep the city's drainage system functional but conveniently forgot that they should have sacrificed the animals on the 1,000 spots designated by the two city corporations beforehand. Instead of following the instructions, Dhaka dwellers chose to slaughter the animals at their garage and made fun of the topic.
Do we expect our children to learn good things from textbooks only? Children learn most of the things that happen around them. As parents, relatives and friends, we should present them with examples of basic manners and cleanliness through our own actions. If we throw garbage on streets in front of them, the future generation might be the same as we are currently.
Dhaka dwellers could bring resolution of these problems by putting an end to the "blame game" as well as by doing their part. The Government has to improve their plans as well. Well-thought-out measures should be introduced along with strict imposition of fines for the offenders, not exceeding Tk 5,000. Repeating the offence will have an augmentation of Tk 500 daily under Section 93 of the Local Government (City Corporation) (Amended) Act, 2009.
People must know that if they throw garbage on the road by one hand, they have to pay fine with the other. With all these steps, we might just be able to eliminate such loathsome habits which will bring significant positive changes to our surroundings as well as our lives.
Radowa Alam is an LLB student at the University of London with an avid interest in writing on social issues.