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      Volume 10 |Issue 07 | February 18, 2011 |

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Beautifying Dhaka

Farhana Urmee

Photo: zahedul i khan

All that glitters is not gold-the very saying might prove its worthiness once again when it is a matter of beautification of an old, polluted and one of the populated places in the world. While the players are preparing to give their best fight, and the people are in anticipation of enjoying the ICC World Cup Cricket on their own grounds, some are frenzied to have the work of beautification of the city done 'in' time.

Hosting the Cricket World Cup is definitely a matter of pride which in due course imposes the responsibility to beautify the place on the shoulder of the administration. 'The whole world is going to see us on this occasion of World Cup', the very aspiration and excitement among the people from all walks of life justifies the ongoing beautification process. But the work is still far from being completed at the time of writing this. The fear is that the rush of getting the job done may lead to short cuts or superficial renovations that may only give the impression of beauty.

If a car travels from Hazrat Shahjalal airport to Mirpur 10 in the evening, the sparkling decorations on the roads certainly give the impression of festivity. Rakibuzzaman Khan, a student and the capital's Mirpur dweller has never seen his locality so embellished. “The shimmering decoration above the streets astonishes me after the sun sets," says Rakib adding that Mirpur has never been so beautiful in the night time. Apart from the lighting, a number of renovations and external decorations have been planned for World Cup cricket.

But thanks to the administration's dillydallying most of the work started at the eleventh hour which often leaves the whole endeavour shrouded in uncertainty and scepticism regarding the quality of the work done.

Edges of footpaths, road-dividers and pillars by the roads are newly painted on this occasion. But some are already fading out. Footpaths have been made free from beggars and hawkers making commuting easy for passers by. This beautification and repair of the wrecked streets, inadequate drainage system was supposed to be finished by February 5. But the whole concept of beautification becomes fuzzy when an interested spectator has to see an incomplete road right beside the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium. The under construction Park Avenue Road seems a complete mess with digging going on, pillars fallen on the sideways, and many more. While a day labourer working for the street expresses his doubt about the project's timely completion, the contractor seems confident that the whole work will finish before the World Cup starts. “Labourers are working round the clock and a huge number of people are involved to finish the job on time," says Afzal Hossain Tenu, the contractor of Park Avenue road.

Beautification efforts in preparation for the ICC World Cup. Photo: zahedul i khan

Questions can be raised on the issue of the delayed, often unplanned, start of the repair and beautification works which is making it harder for the workers to meet the deadline. Again, the sustainability of such work can also be questioned. “The renovation and beautification work, especially for the stadium had started just four months before, which is unexpected. Arranging the World Cup Cricket should not be treated as a task that could be done in one night. Again, in a developing country like ours, things should not be planned on such a temporary basis as we cannot afford wastage of money," observes Arif, a sports enthusiastic.

Afzal Hossain Tenu has got some new work as well in this beautification project. “The other day army broke the boundary wall in between the under construction Park Avenue road and National Bangla High School and asked me to construct a gate, as they have suddenly planned to use the school premises as a parking ground; and I have to get it done as early as possible,” says Tenu showing his new work (parking gate construction) right beside the road.

The 54 crore taka project for the renovation and beautification of 4.66 lakh square metres of roads, footpaths and fields is being implemented by the Engineering Core of Army in association with Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) and 42 construction firms. The project, which started on December 26 last year and is going on full swing, includes road carpeting, footpath repairing, drainage and development of road dividers. The whole work of the beautification and infrastructural development of the city is divided into two zones having a total of 27 roads from Mirpur Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium to Bangabandhu National stadium which has around 300 army personnel and some 36 civilians working for it.

Apart from the lighting and construction work, Dhaka aspires to look beautiful with the shiny newly painted vehicles. The government has asked the owners of buses, cars and other human haulers to get them newly painted to ensure a good view of the city's traffic. The directive came earlier this month making it tough for the vehicle owners to get their buses or cars painted in such a short time before the World Cup begins. According to a bus driver such a sudden decision made the situation hectic for both vehicle owners and painters.

Professor Sarwar Jahan of Urban and Regional Planning, Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology (BUET) lauded the efforts of the government to beautify the city, yet, observes that these renovations should not be meant for the international event only. “It should be a part of the planning and development of the government," he says. "If we had a pre-existing upgraded drainage system and roads, the concept of the beautification could bear something aesthetic in its meaning. The ideas to beautify the city could go beyond mere reconstructing roads, repairing vehicles and painting the pillars," observes Sarwar.

“Keeping the footpaths neat and clean should not be a measure to be followed only in this World Cup period; beautification should not only be confined to lighting up the streets. Rather the government should take the infrastructural development into account to ensure a smooth urban life,” continues Sarwar. He also says that if things can be done with proper planning with sufficient time in hand and utilising public private partnerships, and if developmental works can have the desired sustainability and utility, then even the haphazard urban life of current day Dhaka can one day be a beautiful one indeed.



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