April 6, 2014

The evolving task of city governance

They have quite a job and they have to be in on the task if we are to have a sustainable clean city. My thought is particularly on the encroaching global culture and expatriate workforce that have a different sanitary culture to what we in Maldives has been taught in the past about what it is to be tidy and clean. We had been taught the values of cleanliness by our grandparents’ generation and many say that over the past several years, there has been an eroding of this value-base as evidenced by the increasing litter on our streets and in our watery surroundings.
Our past basis was mainly about keeping ourselves and our neighborhood clean. With this erosion is taking place, the addition of this other cultural variations that also don't see any issue with throwing trash or spitting on the street makes the municipal task and our citizen anxiety every more real. How do we deal with this issue? Especially in Male which is the face of our nation, our whole populace needs to be in on doing something about this as an imperative. Yes is it a social culture that has grown over time of eating and drinking outside the home, and the availability of packaged foods all which have wrappers and no place to dispose of these while we are on the move. Cigarette and gutka and Magnum wraps, plastic water bottles whose use is done, and
the empty cans of energy drinks of all brands and sizes line the street parapets and the tops of roadside switchboard boxes. Similarly, the litter thronged pits of the trees and drain tops that line our Capital’s avenues demonstrate either the lethargy of municipal authorities or irresponsibility of our pedestrians to put just a little more energy into making our house a home so to say. 

In time past there was no habit of eating and drinking while walking along the street. Perhaps our lifestyle has become so urgent that this needs to be done, or is it really so? Even if it was so, just as that urgency maybe rational, would it not be rational to not pollute our home?  Has Male become a place for everyone, such that no one believes it is his home anymore?  So no one cares, and we put it on to the shoulders of the City Council to clean up after us?  As parents we had attempted to make our children clean up after play. Perhaps such is not the case now where Aayas clean up after our children – given the notion that loving our children means having them become couch potatoes. And so it seems as I see giant kids stepping out of the schools with diminutive mothers carrying the school bag – perhaps the epitome of love.  Oh yes, I am straying from my point.  

Yes, gone are the days when we swept our little home-front with the view that it was then our responsibility. But now this seems not so. However, how easy it would be -- I ask myself -- if each one of us was responsible enough to sweep that not more than ten-foot- by-ten- foot space in front of our houses and keep the drains from clogging! That would certainly put a smile of respect on the faces of our touring visitors and save also for the nation an army of expat laborers who many say are siphoning our country of close to 50 million dollars each month as transfers to their home countries.

Good governance in a nation is about caring for the people’s sustainable future. And sustainability emerges from making people responsible; an ecological realization that everything is connected to everything else and so my loss is your loss too and vice-versa; that action impacts on another’s wellbeing in some way or the other. Therefore, the encroachment of both political and social cultures into Maldives should be managed assiduously. We cannot expect things to move in equilibrium when even one element of the system is upset. And our national chaos is not the upsetting of a mere element, but the result of a socio-political upheaval.  

If anything can save us in this political transition, it is the presence of social responsibility within our governance process and outside it. Without that there can be nothing but simmering discontentment.   

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