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    Volume 9 Issue 22| May 28, 2010|

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Slow Death of the Footpaths

Tamanna Khan

Back in the 80s, Dhanmondi was a place far away from my home, Motijheel. It was a place where you would go only if you were unwell because the doctors with a 'Professor' attached to their names lived in Dhanmondi. At least that was my idea of the area. It was different from where I lived; it had trees, one or two storied buildings and plenty of footpaths.

When we moved to Dhanmondi in the late 90s, proper footpaths still existed. The wide concrete walkways on both sides of the road made us feel safe while walking on the unknown, quiet, Dhanmondi roads. My mother was also okay with letting her daughters explore the area because of the pavements; we would not be trampled over by a speeding car, bus or truck or get hurt by a cycle rickshaw. It was because of these footpaths that my friend and I could lose ourselves in conversation and songs while walking safely from Dhanmondi road 12 to road 2. It was also on these footpaths that I had a wonderful time weaving dreams with my loved one and the same footpaths which saw us part.

I don't know if it will be an overstatement if I claim not to have seen such footpaths as that of Dhanmondi's, in any other residential areas of Dhaka. Not even in the beautiful DOHS areas or the elite Gulshan, Banani and Baridhara areas. Dhanmondi's footpaths are old, in some cases renovated by the apartment owners who would misuse them in the first place by putting all their construction material on them. The government also renovated many of the footpaths. However, all footpaths are now subject to negligence and, in my opinion, to murder.

Footpath, as the name indicates, is a path that should be used by foot and not by wheels. Unfortunately people using vehicles do not seem to understand the impact of the feet and wheels on the footpaths. No matter how heavy a man or woman is, he or she will definitely be no match for the weight of a rickshaw and its metal frame on the footpath. The footpaths already have their share of wear and tear thanks to natural forces and calamities, like heavy wind, rain and erosion. These paths would never be able to stand the extra burden of heavy wheels. There are also people who are using the footpath as their very own private property by setting up their businesses. The poor trying to start a business for mere survival, is something I can empathise with, but what about vehicles, like motorbikes and sometimes even cars? Why would they use the footpaths just to be ahead of everyone in a traffic jam?

As far as I understand, these footpaths are built with our tax money. When we park our cars on the footpaths, or drive over them, it is our own possession that we are destroying. Some argue for the sake of arguing that anything can be done with public property, since after all, the citizens pay for it. But then the destruction should be done with the consent of every single taxpayer in the country. If only such utopian ideas could inject some civic sense in us!

The slow death of the footpaths in Dhanmondi has not stopped my walking, however. I walk on the pavements in spite of the honking vehicles behind me, the clinking bells of the rickshaws, the threat of the motorcycles and the bumper of the parked cars. I walk on the footpaths in spite of the muddy soil layered on it by some nearby construction, garbage of the high-rise apartments, makeshift polythene houses and excreta of the inhabitants. I walk on, trying to locate the lost parts and like my mother, I also want my children to walk on footpaths and be safe. And this is why I want us to stop murdering the footpaths.

Photo: Zahedul i khan

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