For a better city

Ahmed Shatil Alam spends a day with ‘Clean up Dhaka’ campaign

Photo courtesy Clean up Dhaka

001Almost on a daily basis when we step out of our homes or office out on the streets of Dhaka, either our nostrils are attacked by the stench of garbage dumped arbitrarily on roadsides or we try to veer our eyes away from the sight of sewage seeping out of overflowing manholes.
Many of us have given in to the notion that this will be the state of our city for as long as we live. Others do a bit more and complain till their daily priorities occupy their thoughts.
But a group of individuals decided to stand out of these two groups and finally make a difference.
Their efforts received a spotlight last Friday when photographs of them, along with their foreigner friends, cleaning up the streets of Dhaka went viral on social media platforms. The photographs gained the attention of people as they depicted the way the foreign nationals were manually cleaning the waste of our city streets along with their local friends, while others opted to take photos of the whole process.
002After cleaning some of the roads in Banani and Gulshan last Friday, the same group was also seen with hand gloves and giant size plastic waste bags at city’s Indira Road and Asad Avenue areas. Even here they were surrounded by curious onlookers as they continued their manual cleaning drive on August 23 and 24.
On August 24, New Age Xtra attended the clean-up campaign by the group at Asad avenue.
When asked about the motive behind the campaign, the ‘Clean up Dhaka’ organiser Jawad Mubashwir tells New Age Xtra, ‘It is our mission to raise public awareness about waste management and show people that a clean city can be built together for the purpose of a better life for everyone.’

Mubashwir, who is also a Bangladeshi student at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan, adds that last year Dhaka became the least livable city in the world in a survey, which shed a negative light on the 400-year old capital of Bangladesh. ‘That was around when I decided that something needs to be done for this city,’ he says.
After that Dhaka became the least livable city in the annual Liveability Ranking by the Economist Intelligence Unit. This year it has ranked the second least liveable city in the world. Though it may sound like an improvement, it really is nothing to be content about as Dhaka only falls second to war-torn Damascus of Syria.
003Later this year, Mubashwir shared the idea of cleaning Dhaka with six of his university friends including five Japanese and a native of Iceland. Surprisingly all of them agreed upon the proposal and came to Bangladesh for the first time on August 19 during their vacation.
Being so optimistic that Dhaka could become a livable city again, Rut Einarsdottir from Iceland says ‘The people of the country [Bangladesh] feel the need to clean their city. But they do not know where to start.’
‘We have learnt many bad things about the city and the people of the country. But after arriving here I have started to think that most of the issues are highly exaggerated’ she says.
Another teammate Kaname Toyofuku from Japan says that he found differences between Bangladesh and Japan as roads are dirtier in Bangladesh and the smells produced from the roadside wastage is terrible in Dhaka.
‘But I think these are temporary problems,’ he says. ‘If the authority and the people of the city wills to change this, then it can change forever,’ adds Toyofuku.
004He also shares that the Japanese people keeps their city clean and would want to share the message with their Bangladeshi counterparts and that they should similarly care about Dhaka and other cities.
Joining the campaign, Dhaka North City Corporation’s conservancy engineer Aminur Rahman says, everyday around 4,500 tons of organic wastage is produced in both the city corporation areas and a small portion of them are eventually disposed.
‘One of the main reasons behind the roadside waste is our lack of maintenance and people’s unawareness about the issue,’ he says. Praising the idea, he also says that the campaign will generate awareness among city dwellers about the major issue and this will bring about a change soon.
Senior IT personality Zakaria Swapan had also joined the campaign. Swapan, who is also the founder & CEO of Priyo.com, says, ‘The sight of the foreign nationals dirtying their hands to clean our roads will hopefully encourage our people to become more conscious about their social and environmental responsibilities.’
008In this case, Mubashwir, a former S.F.X. Greenherald International School student, says, ‘I had a feeling that if some foreigners will work in the way we are doing right now, it will be more effective than the activities of local people.’
‘On the first day we observed most locals capturing photos or intently following our activities, instead of coming forward to help. But during the last two days of the campaign, many school students, city dwellers, pedestrians and university students joined us,’ he says.
While talking to New Age Xtra, Evita Debnath, a student of Class eight of S.F.X Green Herald International School, says she is very happy to be a part of this ‘exciting’ task and requested the elders to be supportive toward the campaign.
005Aichuk Tripura, a grade 11 student of the same school, feels that the campaign will create a social pressure on the people to clean up their city.
Mubashwir also shares that this is just the beginning. ‘Next year, I want to bring a large group of my university friends and fellows to Bangladesh for the same mission,’ he shares.
‘This time my friends had spent their own pocket money to come to Bangladesh for two weeks…we do not have financial or other support from anyone,’ he shares.
‘In fact my family also laughed at me when I started this a week before,’ he shares. While he was saying this, a group of elderly pedestrians walked up to Mubashwir and praised the efforts of his team for embarking on the ‘honourable venture’ towards society.
Mubashwir says, ‘I am content that through the campaign some people in Bangladesh have been motivated although others stuck to taking pictures on their cellphones of the campaign.’