Dhaka city traffic jam: A capital failing to advance

29
Democracy
Dhaka city
Mir Mosharref Hossain Pakbir
MNA Editorial Desk: 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 hassle for Dhaka dwellers. It is hurting our health, mentality, financial position and the country’s economy. We are losing USD 336 mln every year in loss of fuel cost due to the slow traffic movement. With such a large population, Bangladesh government needs to adopt highly focused planning and actions to eliminate the traffic jam from this growing megacity.
If we ask the citizens about the most disturbing thing in Dhaka city, the answer will obviously be the traffic jam. Dhaka citizens are at the last stage of their tolerance which gets expressed in their behaviour and activities as traffic problem is crippling us mentally. And there are several reasons behind this which needs to be addressed.
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. They obtain their license through bribing the relevant authorities and have almost no knowledge of traffic rules. They don’t care about other’s problems as they stop their cars anywhere on the roads, drive as they find any gap and do many other nonsense causing traffic jam.
People walking on the road while all the vehicles are running in pace is also creating traffic disorder.  Besides, they talk over mobile phones, as well as gossiping with others, not using the foot-over bridges etc which demonstrate their poor attitude to follow the rules.
Unfit vehicles are also causing traffic jam, air pollution and citizens’ hassle. The fitness of the vehicles is completely ignored by the traffic administration as corruption protects the owners of these vehicles. There are actions by mobile courts sometimes, but those are actually hoax and not cordially tended to eliminate the problems.
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.
Here it is worth mentioning that, through creation of flyovers at some critical points, the traffic jam due to rail-crossing was partly offset like at Malibag, Mahakhali, Khilgaon etc.
A major reason for the 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. Now-a-days, the parents are highly concerned about the academic pursuits of their children as they need to prepare their next generation capable to compete with the city children.
With foreign remittance, modern agriculture and evolution of so many business opportunities cropping up in the rural areas, people can now afford children’s educational cost in Dhaka. Lack of proper educational facilities in the suburbs and rural areas is forcing people shifting to Dhaka for better education. This increasing population is also causing traffic jam in Dhaka.
A student living at Uttara often studies at a school at Motijheel or Baily Road. There is huge inter-district (thana) movement of students within the Dhaka city. 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.
Most prominent schools in Dhaka have very limited branches but parents chase these institutions for their children’s education. They don’t bother to travel a long distance through heavy traffic to ensure good future of their children. They maintain personal cars for this movement increasing the number of cars on the streets of Dhaka.
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. As all these public vehicles enter and pass through Dhaka city multiple times every day, they create a lot of traffic jam.
Another major reason for traffic jam is illegally occupied footpaths. Hawkers, shopkeepers, beggars, street vendors occupy most of the footpaths and people walk on the roads. Walking passers-by capture around 30 per cent of roads. This illegal occupancy and illegal car parking on the city roads is playing extreme roles in creating traffic jam.
Traffic jam is the biggest contributor for Dhaka being the third most unlivable city of the world. To reduce traffic problem and make Dhaka city fit for living, several short term and long term plans are required.
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 with educational standard and facility like that of Dhaka. Good teachers and proper facility must be ensured at these institutions so that students need not move to Dhaka for better studies.
We must encourage or instruct the top schools and colleges of Dhaka to open branches at different locations or thanas especially at places like Purbachol or Jhilmil project, where city is expanding. Good education must be ensured at every thana. Then government should make law for the students to avail at least primary education at the institutions of their own thana. That will immensely reduce movement of students over the Dhaka city and parents will need fewer cars to carry their children to educational institutes at long distance.
Footpaths must be clear and there is no alternative of doing that. The government should relocate the businesses of footpaths. Roads should be left for the vehicles. 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.
If required, army should be deployed to clear footpaths and regain the canals of Dhaka city under particular short term projects. The army and the government had been successful to realize large projects like, Hatirjheel which has significantly contained the traffic flow at adjacent areas. They have also implemented Marine Drive at Cox’sBazar, conservation of country’s largest Rayerbazar Shaheed Buddhijibi Graveyard and working on Padma Bridge project. Army can contribute more in reducing traffic jam and water-logging problem which is another great cause of Dhaka city traffic jam.
Public buses should be controlled by the government or co-operative societies. The bus owners will register their vehicles with that society and will receive monthly payment for their vehicle. There will be specific routes only inside the city.
These buses must have all facilities. The bus drivers and helpers should be educated up to higher 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 and benefits to ensure excellent service. This will motivate people to use less of private cars as they are having good alternatives. Moreover, passenger sheds must be built or recaptured at every stoppage point and buses will stop only at those points. As the bus owners will receive monthly pay, drivers will not pick or drop passengers here and there.
Alongside the four rivers surrounding Dhaka city, a ring road should be made to increase Dhaka’s road areas which will also help to reduce inter-district vehicles movement over the city and to expand the city itself with automatic reduction in traffic load.
The DMP has a city diagram for special days, which ensures guided traffic movement and reduced traffic jam. That can be used during office starting and closing time. Few critical roads should be temporarily made one-way during those hours to reduce both way traffic pressures.
If Bangladesh government could accomplish so many development indices, then they can also eliminate traffic jam of Dhaka city. The government, honest authorities and administration must work together to solve the traffic jam problem. Otherwise, Bangladesh’s development and the city’s uplift will remain invisible to the general people and investors.
The writer is the Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA)