A friend, in Dhaka after several years, waxed lyrical about the rickshaw rides, the krishnachura blooms, the food, and fascinating conversations he was having with people in the city. The only thing he seemed less than enthused about was the city's streets and pavements, which even the most unobservant among us would realize were far from pristine. Dhaka is a bustling metropolis, growing and evolving at a rapid rate, but it's also getting conspicuously filthier. We Dhakaites are an opinionated lot, and we often express our disapproval about our city's condition in no uncertain terms. But the time for words passed several litter-filled streets ago.
It's easy to litter the streets of the city. There are no trashcans on the streets, no accessible recycling points, no door-to-door waste collection services. What other alternative do you have but to strew your city's streets with litter? It's easy to search for excuses, and blame the authority, but if truth be told do we really care about the state of our city? Even with trash cans readily available and accessible in public places like Dhanmandi Lake, we insist on tossing our rubbish everywhere.
“You might think that it'd be extremely difficult for residents to keep their city clean, says Eumma Basree Huda, Vice President of Dust Free Bangladesh, a non-profit organisation based in Chittagong working for a cleaner country. But instead of viewing it as a national or even local problem, why can't you look at it on a more personal level? Instead of flinging the plastic bottle or the chocolate wrapper on the road, carry them in your bag so that you can throw them in them nearest available garbage can.”
At one point, Chittagong used to be known as the cleanest city of the country. Even if that may not be the case currently, the city is still way ahead of the capital when it comes to a well-aware public, that is relatively more sensitized about the importance of keeping their city clean. Cleanliness drives are rapidly becoming common place in the port city with the most recent one taking place on April 12. Hundreds of Chittagonians walked for nearly three hours, as they campaigned for a liveable city with Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, former caretaker government adviser, even donning a cleaner's vest and trying to shovel a gutter in the city. It's a beginning and a small one at that, but this initiative is one that can easily be adopted by every other city of the country.
“The problem with most people is that they are interested in seeing a change but not many are interested in bringing about that change. When we carry out drives, most people seem to pay genuine attention and ask questions about how they can help. But this is seen as such an insignificant problem when compared to the “larger picture” that they soon return to their old habits,” says Huda.
In their paper “Waste Management in Dhaka City – A theoretical Marketing Model”, Tamzid Ahmed Chowdhury, professor at Daffodil International University, and Syeda Rownak Afza, lecturer at BRAC University, argue that effective management is possible through cooperation of the public and private sectors, motivating behavioural changes by actively creating awareness among residents, and using innovative, low-cost technology to dispose the waste. “There is a need for a complete rethinking of “waste” to analyse if waste is indeed waste. We can't stress enough on the importance of self-discipline when it comes to keeping your country clean. A city can only be made liveable, and habitable if the people living in it are willing to take its responsibility on their own shoulders. If you want your children to live in a place that stinks of days old garbage that will not be disposed of because no one cares then do go ahead. Keep littering and continue to teach your children to do the same. But if you think that you deserve better and your city deserves better, it's time to take matters in your own hands.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO KEEP YOUR CITY CLEAN
Pick Up Trash: It won't kill you to pick an empty packet of chips when you see it lying on the streets. People seeing you might even follow your footsteps and do the same when they get the chance.
Recycle: Instead of throwing away recyclable products like plastic water bottles and paper, sell them to your local waste collector.
Don't Spit on Roads: This is disgusting. And also, it spreads diseases.
Spread Awareness: If someone is littering publicly, let them be aware of it. If your friends or family members are doing it, this would be the best time to let them hear the end of it.