Safe sidewalks and restrooms

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The pedestrians of Dhaka have to plod through dirty puddles, broken pavements, the incessant noise of blaring horns and dust everywhere. Added to that is a lack of public restrooms. So given the overall circumstances, it is a precarious path that a pedestrian takes when leaving the home every day.

There are certain places in Dhaka city that were certainly roads once upon a time, but now are little more that a series of ruts and potholes, ditches and drains. Then there are the sidewalks where one has to tread with utmost care. In fact, only someone with the eloquent imagination of a poet would be able to perceive these paths as pavements.

Then there are the places which the city corporations like to call restrooms or public toilets. The state of these facilities is disastrous. These are hardly usable, particularly for women, children and the elderly. A healthy able-bodied person struggles to walk along the city streets or use the public restrooms. What can be said about the disabled?

It is hard to discern just how harmful is the deafening noise of the city. There is a competition among the ear-splitting vehicle horns, the music over loudspeakers and the speeches and sermons of politicians and preachers to penetrate the ears of the public. And in the jam-packed buses, people speak at the top of their voices over their mobile phones, oblivious to the discomfort of their fellow passengers.

Such lack of civil sense is totally unacceptable in any civilised society. In any civilised country if pedestrians are thus harmed by the noise, the state of the streets and the lack of latrine facilities, they will simply sue the government for the mental and physical distress they undergo. But the public in Dhaka simply go on their own way, accepting the errors and limitations of government utilities.

There may be those who try to look at the brighter side and say that the jerky and bumpy rickshaw and auto-rickshaw rides and difficult footpath commute can help reduce the passenger’s excessive weight. It is at if the city corporation has given them mobile gyms. Perhaps the public should be grateful.

Even if the dilapidated footpaths and roads are accepted, how can the public accept that there are only 62 public toilers in a city with a population of 15 million? Worse still, over 90 per cent of these toilets are not fit for use by the disabled. The disabled were simply not given a second thought while these facilities were designed. Fortunately the city corporations are now taking the disabled into cognizance while designing new toilet restrooms.

The two Dhaka city corporation polls are ahead and the candidates are coming up with all sorts of commitments. The people do not seem to expect much from them. But if the two city fathers can ensure safer sidewalks, less noisy streets and disabled-friendly public restrooms, Dhaka’s livability factor will significantly forge ahead.

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