DCC should go under PMO: Khoka
Sadeque Hossain Khoka, Mayor of Dhaka city, talks about different aspects of city management in an interview with Kausar Islam Ayon of
DS: What are the steps you deem necessary for transforming Dhaka into a megacity?
Mayor: Dhaka is becoming a megacity with the passage of time. As the capital of a poor country, it draws people from the rural areas who expect that Dhaka will offer better chances of getting jobs or setting up any business. Dhaka will be recognised in international grading as a megacity if it can extend all civic facilities to the citizens. There has been considerable progress in environment protection, beautification of the city, cleanliness etc during the present government's regime. The good results are attributable to the Honourable Prime Minister's keen interest in urban development, clear-cut directives and, above all, her positive response to all city development plans. We have banned polythene, use of two-stroke engines, and have repaired or reconstructed many roads in the city. But still there are problems which hinder development. For example, scarcity of water and electricity, traffic jams, shortage of gas, inadequate housing facilities, law and order and social security are some of the areas where improvement is needed to turn Dhaka into a nice place to live in.
DS: How do you envisage Dhaka after 10/ 15 years?
Mayor: The overall development of a nation influences the lives of the citizens. There are quite a few factors like high growth rate, the industries sector overtaking agriculture, which will lead to more exports than imports, less dependence on foreign aid, modernisation of agriculture etc that have to be considered. Politicians do play an important role in decision making. As a politician, I dream of a wholesome, beautiful Dhaka for the posterity.
DS: What are the main obstacles on the way to Dhaka's development?
Mayor: Dhaka City Corporation is the biggest welfare service-oriented organisation in the local government sector. It is associated with thousands of problems and prospects of city life. People expect that the elected Mayor would play an effective role in solving problems like load-shedding, scarcity of water and traffic jams. The Mayor has been given the rank and status of a minister but DCC has not been upgraded institutionally. It was necessary to appoint a secretary level official and some other government functionaries with the rank of joint secretary to make DCC more dynamic. It was also necessary to give priority to coordination among the government and autonomous organisations involved in the process of city development. I have appealed to the government to place the DCC under the Prime Minister's Secretariat. The ground situation is not consistent with our thoughts and ideas. So we have to adopt a plan to build a beautiful metropolis for the future as its population may reach 20 million by 2015.
DS: DCC health facilities hardly reach the poor. How can the situation be improved?
Mayor: We usually provide prophylactic health facilities. Cleanliness plays an important role in this respect. We have achieved significant success in this area.
DS: The city is believed to be less polluted now. How can you sustain this positive trend?
Mayor: The most important thing here is mass awareness. We must also punish the offenders and the media should cover the issue elaborately. Our success in this area has been appreciated by all concerned.
DS: DCC has financial constraints that hinder development projects despite the willingness on its part to undertake them. What you think should be done to boost its earnings?
Mayor: The capital represents the country as a whole. Given the great importance of its development, more financial support from the government is necessary. We have initiated and implemented some projects that will enhance our income.
DS: Why have you failed to introduce holiday market in the city?
Mayor: The holiday market is actually a substitute for the wayside hawkers markets. We selected eight sites in the city for such markets. We will soon take the initiative to start work on this project.
DS: The mayors of six cities demanded city government and coordination among the agencies concerned. What obstructs this plan and how can that be removed?
Mayor: We have discussed the civic issues among ourselves (mayors). Most of the problems cannot be solved overnight, and some of them can be addressed locally. Negotiations at the government level are still going on to address the issues raised by us. I believe the government will take a rational stand on them.
DS: What are your major successes as Mayor?
Mayor: We have concentrated on improving the quality of life in the city. New roads, parks and markets have been built. We have organised rallies of freedom fighters and named roads after them. Furthermore, the DCC has launched anti-mosquito drives and arranged tree fair.