On a quiet Wednesday afternoon in early August, Dhaka’s Tejgaon fire station got a call from Beltola, a crowded part of Korail slum. An electric wire was sparking and nearby houses were starting to catch on fire.
For several years now, we have seen Dhaka repeatedly ranked as one of the least livable cities in the world. One major factor is our transport system. A city of 20 million people, no metro system and an inadequate number of buses create a traffic nightmare. Those who depend on buses suffer the most: drivers pack people into buses, drive aggressively and stop haphazardly, sometimes in the middle of the street. It is almost impossible for women to get a ride during rush hours.
Recently I visited Manikganj in rural Bangladesh to see BRAC’s work in water and sanitation. A shopkeeper at a local market said that he knew handwashing was important, but soap was expensive. “What’s more expensive,” I asked, “soap or the medicines for treating diarrhea and fever?” “Medicine,” he said. He knew the answer - but that didn’t change his actions.