Let’s Talk Dhaka

Aiming toward a more clean and more equal Dhaka

On June 19, 2023, the Centre for Research and Information’s youth-focused initiative, Young Bangla, organized Let’s Talk, a platform for policy discussions. The event, which marked the 47th episode of Let’s Talk, took place in the capital city with the title ‘Let’s Talk Dhaka’. The Dhaka North City Corporation’s (DNCC) Nagar Bhaban welcomed around 200 youth participants from around the city in this policy discussion session.  

Md. Atiqul Islam, Mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation; Saber Hossain Chowdhury, MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change; Mahfuza Liza, BPM, Police Super, Special Branch, Bangladesh Police; Iqbal Habib, Principal Architect VITTI Sthapati Brindo Ltd.; Shamima Akhter, Director, Corporate Affairs, Partnerships, and Communications, Unilever Bangladesh Ltd. and Dr. Manoshi Saha, Joy Bangla Youth Award Achiever and founder of Travellets of Bangladesh were present at the Let’s Talk Dhaka as the panelists.  

At the event, young participants actively voiced their concerns, and queries, and raised awareness regarding various aspects of Dhaka. The topics encompassed the city’s cleanliness, the responsibilities of the city corporation in terms of public services, the digitization of the traffic and crime systems, protecting citizens’ cybersecurity, promoting public health and sanitation awareness, implementing intelligent urban planning, and numerous other matters. These discussions occurred between the young attendees and the policymakers on the panel. 

During the event, Mayor Md. Atiqul Islam of the Dhaka North City Corporation actively engaged with the city’s young residents. He invited the youth to participate in DNCC’s Green Dhaka campaign, emphasizing the significance of civic responsibility in creating an environmentally friendly city.

Additionally, Mayor Atiqul Islam addressed the issue of respecting traffic rules and regulations. Regarding smart urban planning and transportation systems, he stated, “We are currently piloting a project called Bus Route Rationalizing, where each bus route will be assigned to a single company, leading to a reduction in the number of vehicles.”

Waste management emerged as another primary concern raised by the young representatives. In response, the DNCC mayor highlighted a groundbreaking initiative: “For the first time in Bangladesh, we are generating electricity from waste and transforming our waste into a valuable resource.” He then elaborated on the Aminbazar waste-to-energy project, which aims to generate 42.5 megawatts of electricity from 3,000 tonnes of mixed waste daily. 

During the event, discussions arose regarding inter-agency communication concerning infrastructural development and utility projects, and the Mayor clarified his responsibility in addressing such issues. He stated, “The major government agencies involved in the city, such as the city corporations, WASA, RAJUK, DESCO, and DPDC, exchange information before initiating any projects. Occasionally, we encounter situations where a newly constructed road may need to be temporarily compromised to facilitate a project that will provide long-term benefits to the citizens. For instance, we plan to implement a deep-filtering system for underground water, ensuring the purification of the water supply before it reaches the pipelines. Such initiatives will not only benefit the current generation but also future generations.” 

Saber Hossain Chowdhury, MP, highlighted the significance of Dhaka city. He highlighted that Dhaka contributes 40% of the country’s total GDP and emphasized that the future of Bangladesh is intricately tied to the future of Dhaka.

Addressing the young participants as current leaders, Saber Hossain emphasized the importance of forging partnerships with them. He stated, “The demands of the growing population are increasing, and we must understand the nature of these demands and how we can meet them. We face significant challenges in establishing sustainable cooperation to address the needs of our population.”  

Let’s Talk serves as a platform for young individuals to engage in open discussions with policymakers, holding them accountable for their actions and discussing the activities, responsibilities, and obligations of various agencies. Consequently, the youth participants expressed their curiosity regarding the role of the parliament and parliamentary standing committees in addressing environmental challenges. In response, Saber Hossain Chowdhury stated, “The fundamental principle of governance is to improve the well-being of the people, and it is a primary responsibility of the government. Every action, law, and regulation is formulated to benefit the people and promote their health.” 

He further elaborated on the role of the parliament and parliamentary standing committees in addressing diverse issues, such as air pollution. They work towards identifying the sources of air pollution, monitoring the availability of green and open spaces in the city, and ensuring compliance with set standards. They also hold public-private organizations accountable for environmental pollution and undertake sustainable initiatives to mitigate such issues. 

Mahfuza Liza, BPM, from Bangladesh Police, tackled inquiries regarding the well-being and digital protection of citizens. According to her, there has been a significant shift in the approach. “Previously, our reliance was on human intelligence, which accounted for 90% in combating crime, while technology contributed only 10%. However, the situation has now reversed. Bangladesh now heavily relies on modern technology for various aspects, including crime data management, criminal data, and forensic laboratory tests.” 

In addition, Mahfuza emphasizes that modern technology is also employed to enhance public safety. Several instances of this include the 999 hotline service, online police clearance service, Hello City App, Hello SB App, and the Complain Cell, among others. Lastly, the Police Super raises awareness of cybercrime, digital footprint, and safety measures in cyberspace. 

Shamima Akhter, from Unilever Bangladesh Ltd., expressed her views on the role of corporate organizations in safeguarding the city’s environment. Shamima says, “We rely on the land’s resources, such as air and water, to manufacture our products. If we don’t use them responsibly, the public will bear the consequences. That’s why we are consistently prioritizing environmentally conscious production practices.”

Furthermore, Shamima Akhter emphasized the significance of maintaining a healthy and clean Dhaka city, as it reflects the image of Bangladesh to foreign investors and the global community.

Architect Iqbal Habib highlighted the significance of equitable infrastructure in road management, stressing that private cars currently occupy around 80% of road space, while public transportation accounts for a mere 20%. This stark imbalance in transportation facilities calls for immediate attention from the Mayor to address the issue of mismanagement.  

Dr. Manoshi Saha, a recipient of the Joy Bangla Youth Award, responded to inquiries regarding public health. Her emphasis was on the availability of public restrooms, sanitation, and implementing measures to change people’s behavior. Manoshi explains, “There are four stages to induce behavioral change: knowledge, action, practice, and advocacy. Today’s youth leaders can adopt these steps to initiate positive and societal transformations.”  

During the rapid-fire round, the young leaders of today were questioned about the initial change they would bring about if they were appointed as the Mayor of Dhaka. The participants eagerly responded to the inquiry. Abu Hurayra from Daffodil International University said, “I believe that one employment is equal to a development, ultimately the development of the country.” Pushpita Talukder from Bangladesh University of Professionals said, “I want to ensure women’s safety on roads.” Md. Tahmid Al-Mahboob said, “I would start using public transport to encourage others.” In response to how they want to see the city, many answered in favor of a walkable Dhaka, suitable for the elderly, and a clean Dhaka.   

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