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Traffic jam in Dhaka: Greatest chaos of post C-19 era

Published : Tuesday, 10 May, 2022 at 12:00 AM  Count : 1078

Traffic jam in Dhaka: Greatest chaos of post C-19 era

Traffic jam in Dhaka: Greatest chaos of post C-19 era

We have just celebrated the auspicious Eid-ul-Fitr only a few days ago. After the holidays millions of people are coming back to the capital, where they live for work or for the education of their children. During the last two years, educational institutions and many of the offices were closed due to COVID-19 pandemic. But from this week onwards, everything will be fully open. This new situation will bring along huge traffic congestion in Dhaka city. Hence, the life of Dhaka city dwellers is going to turn into living hell soon.

Dhaka city population, currently estimated at nearly 19 million, is larger than that of 174 countries of the world and traffic jam is undoubtedly the biggest stress for Dhaka dwellers. 23,234 people live here per square kilometre. The current metro area population of Dhaka is 22,478,116. We are losing USD 336 million every year in loss of fuel cost due to the slow traffic movement. Dhaka's average traffic speed is currently 6.4 kilometres per hour (kph). However, if the present car growth rate continues, without significant public transportation investment, the average speed might drop to 4.7 kph by 2035, which is almost like walking.

Dhaka city has only 7.5 per cent of its area as roads which is supposed to be around 25 per cent as it is for different cities all around the world. But there is very little scope to create more roads inside the city as that will require demolishing many buildings and structures.

In many cases, traffic police of Dhaka city are not efficient. They are not much motivated to implement the laws rather many of them focus on taking bribes or penalizing the drivers or car owners. The drivers of the vehicles are minimally trained or completely untrained particularly those of public transports. People walking on the road while all the vehicles are running in pace is also creating traffic disorder. Unfit vehicles are also causing traffic jam, air pollution and other citizens' hassle.

There is no bypass for the inter-district vehicles and for that they need to enter Dhaka city to move from one district to another. There is a load of so many vehicles throughout, especially at night, causing serious traffic snarls. Over 70 trains pass each day through the Dhaka city causing additional traffic jam.

A major reason for traffic jam in Dhaka city is people's movement for educational purposes. Thousands of citizens from all around the country are entering Dhaka for the education of their children. Lack of proper educational facilities in the suburbs and rural areas is forcing people shifting to Dhaka for better education.

A student living at Uttara often studies at a school at Dhanmondi or Bailey Road. There is huge movement of students within the Dhaka city. Moreover, the public vehicle routes are much unorganized in Dhaka. Like; a bus starts from Gazipur and travels through Dhaka city and ends at Kanchpur or Narayanganj though that should not enter the city. There should be intra-city bus or human hauler services only.

Another major reason for traffic jam is illegally occupied footpaths and walking passers-by capture around 30 per cent of roads. Hawkers should not be uprooted forcefully. As like the developed countries, hawkers should be allowed to install their shops after the office hour and on holidays in front of commercial buildings like; office buildings, residential hotels, educational institutes etc. The city corporations should take the responsibilities to clean those places immediately after their operational time is over.

The government has taken few large infrastructural projects to reduce traffic jam in Dhaka like; the metro rail project, elevated expressway and even is considering subway. But these mega projects will not really reduce the traffic problems of Dhaka as there will be huge congestions in different metro rail station areas. Moreover, those metro passengers will have to avail other public transports to reach their particular destination and that will cause further traffic jam. Additionally, subway is not a sustainable project of socio-economic planning for Dhaka city and it is risky and ambitious too.

In developed countries, children never move out of their area for education. Some countries do not allow doing that unless the schools in locality are full. The government must ensure quality education out of Dhaka. Each thana must have at least two to three good schools and colleges, every divisional headquarter must have one good public and at least one private university.

Most importantly, we must have quality schools and colleges at every thana of Dhaka. Top schools and colleges must be encouraged to establish several branches at different thanas of the city as that will definitely reduce traffic rush in the capital. Then government should make law for the students to avail at least primary education at the institutions of their own thana. Footpaths must be clear and there is no alternative of doing that. Specific road crossing areas must be identified and traffic police should control those points so that people can cross the roads without interfering the traffic movement.

Public buses should be controlled by the government or co-operative societies. The bus owners will register their vehicles to receive monthly payment. There will be specific routes only inside the city. The bus drivers and helpers should be educated up to secondary level with proper training on traffic rules and public service to ensure respect for the law and for the passengers. Duty hours of a bus driver or helper should not exceed eight hours with proper salary to ensure excellent service. Moreover, passenger sheds must be built or recaptured at every stoppage point and buses will stop only at those points.

Alongside the four rivers surrounding Dhaka city, there are embankments (beribadh). These already exist and with a little expense it is possible to establish 8-lane roads even with monorail facility. It will sharply reduce traffic congestion in Dhaka if Tongi-Sadarghat and Tongi-kanchpur roads are made on these embankments. These will help to reduce inter-district vehicles' movement over the city and to expand the city itself with automatic reduction in traffic load. Additionally, it will significantly reduce dust and noise pollution inside the city especially at night.

Moreover, a ring road should be made to increase Dhaka's road areas alongside these rivers. Rather than investing in megaprojects like; subway, this circular ring road will be much more cost efficient as well as effective in terms of reducing the traffic problem of Dhaka city. Additionally, the government must create waterways alongside Dhaka city cantering the four river surrounding Dhaka city. It can come out as a great public transport option with very less cost. Truly, it will require huge drive to uproot illegal riverside establishments but the government should start from empty spaces with a plan and the illegal land-grabbers will then automatically receive the message.

Among the long term plans, the most important is to reduce Dhaka-orientation of the Bangladeshi people to the lowest. We must ensure excellent education and health facilities at least at district levels. Those facilities must be compatible to that of Dhaka. Moreover, the government should plan to relocate large educational institutes outside Dhaka. Government offices should be also relocated outside Dhaka. There is no option but to decentralize in the long run. If not, after implementation of mega projects like Padma Bridge, Dhaka will not be able to take the load of more incoming citizens. This is high time we completely practice the local government concept, where citizens will find their every possible solution at their own districts.

Bangladesh has developed a lot from different perspectives during the last decade but when a foreigner comes out of airport, that development remains invisible due to severe traffic condition. To attract foreign investment, we need to make our capital Dhaka much more liveable and beautiful. It will specifically require reduction of traffic jam in megacity Dhaka to build a truly developed and modern city. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is a visionary leader and we believe she knows our problems. If she commits to reduce Dhaka traffic, the Dhaka dwellers will be able to find some peace and Dhaka will turn into one of the most liveable cities of the world.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Chief Patron, Bangabandhu Shishu Kishore Mela

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