We haven’t had any rain for the past three months and everything is covered with a thick layer of dust. All of the construction in my neighborhood and throughout the city only adds to the debris in the air. It’s still not nearly as bad as Ghana, where many of the roads aren’t paved, and after a day outside one is caked in dust.
The new semester is off to a good start and running. I have 30 students and the classroom is packed. We havn’t had any power outages during class – I take that back, there were two a few hours ago- and the internet speed is showing signs of improvement. I love the fact that during a “typical day” I’ll be out photographing in a Madrassa nearby and half an hour later in the my class teaching students how to use Photoshop or construct a website.
This morning over at Nari Jibon I met Rezwan. We have been online friends for close to a year and I frequently link to his blog from here. He is the South Asia Editor with Global Voices, a citizen journalism news room for voices from the developing world.
Cities by nature are dynamic and ever changing but Dhaka reinvents itself every other week. It’s a work in progress and without meaning to sound disparaging doesn’t really feel fully formed. Old Dhaka, the original hub is an exception but the rest of this sprawling city feels more like a collection of various towns and villages more or less linked together. The demarcation between urban and undeveloped lots hardly exists. Alongside what looks like an established neighborhood are gigantic open fields being cleared. Near my guesthouse the second largest mall and entertainment complex in Asia is nearing completion. The place looks like a newly constructed city and has absolutely nothing in common with the surrounding neighborhoods.
CNG’s are three wheeled “baby taxis”- the same as tuk-tuks in Thailand – that run on Compressed Natural Gas, a fossil fuel substitute for gasoline or diesel. They are about the size of a golf cart and are considered to be a more environmentally clean alternative to those fuels. Although it produces greenhouse gases, it is much safer than other motor fuels. Natural gas is lighter than air, so it disperses quickly when leaked or spilled. Another huge benefit is that it costs five time less then petrol.
CNG has grown into one of the major fuel sources used in car engines in Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. The government of Punjab, Pakistan, the most populous province of that country, has mandated that all public-transport vehicles will use CNG by 2007. Today all of the auto rickshaws as well as personal vehicles in Bangladesh are being converted to CNG powered technology, the cost of which is in the range of $800-$1000. In Dhaka not a single auto rickshaw without CNG has been permitted since 2003.
Considering the amount of traffic, air pollution isn’t too bad in Dhaka. I’ve heard it has greatly improved in the last ten years. Maybe the west can learn something from Bangladesh ?