Bangladesh has gone through several development works during the last decade and the recently inaugurated Padma Bridge is the key landmark of that development. Many other large infrastructural projects are ongoing, which are supposed to change the attire of the whole country. But among all these achievements and progress, the capital city Dhaka is still the seventh least livable city of the world. The most irritating problem of this city is the traffic jam as it is making the dwellers almost crazy. Huge resources are also being wasted on roads including time. Hence, the government, analysts and experts should focus on the easy solutions to address this problem.
The haphazard expansion of Dhaka city causes frequent traffic jams that eat up as much as 2.9% of the gross domestic production (GDP). According to the researchers, another 6%-10% of the country’s GDP is lost indirectly to the city’s traffic congestion. The economy lost Tk 56,000 crore ($6.5 billion) in 2020 from traffic, according to the Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). In 2018, Dhaka traffic wasted 5 million work hours and costs the economy Tk 37,000 crore. Dhaka’s air was also classified as “unhealthy” as the nation’s capital ranked the 2nd worst in Air Quality Index (AQI) and it is majorly due to the heavy traffic of the city.
With the opening of the much-awaited Padma Bridge, the traffic congestion in the capital Dhaka has become severer due to a lack of planning and initiatives. Dhaka was already suffering with heavy traffic caused by illegally grabbed footpaths, centralized government offices, cluster of educational institutions including universities, poor traffic management, inter-district vehicles movement etc. Padma Bridge, while connecting 21 more districts to the other parts of the country including capital Dhaka made the traffic condition of the city completely bizarre during the last few days.
Connecting 21 districts to the capital is the main purpose of Padma Bridge and the purpose has been served well. But unfortunately, the traffic flow into the capital was not addressed while implementing the project. The metro rail project or elevated expressway will become transportation solution for a part of the Dhaka city dwellers but will not reduce traffic congestion much. Hence, it is important to commence with easy solutions to reduce the traffic jam for the sake of saving the city.
All inter-district vehicles pass through Dhaka city and with Padma Bridge, Bangabandhu Setu (Jamuna Bridge), Meghna Bridge, Daudkandi Bridge, Sultana Kamal Bridge and several others, that traffic flow from outside Dhaka has increased a lot. Thousands of buses, trucks, cars are entering Dhaka everyday using those bridges and when these are getting mixed with intra-city vehicles, the rush is absolutely out of control. These inter-city vehicles are coming in from Kanchpur, Mawa, Postogola, Ghorashal, Gazipur, Ashulia, Savar, Demra, Tongi and many other key points.
Considering the current situation, there is no alternative but to construct circular ring road around the city. Ring roads around the capital should have been developed while constructing the bridge to cope with additional traffic movements in the capital. Diversion of traffic by ring roads surrounding the capital would have been the most effective solution to the new situation. The Revised Strategic Transport Plan for 2015 to 2035, which was approved in August 2016, predicted separating intra-capital traffic flow from inter-district traffic by the construction of a 73km inner ring road, 108km middle ring road and 129km outer ring road passing through the capital’s flood flow zones.
The inner ring road would provide a new route to commuters around the capital, Teramukh-Abdullahpur-Gabtoli-Rayerbazar-Babu Bazar-Sadarghat-Fatullah-Chashara-Signboard-Shimrail-Demra-Eastern Bypass and on the way stretches of it would pass by the Balu River in the east and the Burignga River in the south. The middle ring road has been planned to create a route along Outpura-Dhaka Bypass-Bhulta-Kanchpur-Jhilmil-Western Bypass. The outer ring road would create a new traffic route linking Hemayetpur-Kalakandi-Madanpur-Danga-Bypail-Gazipur.
Now, the vehicles from all 64 districts are moving through Dhaka city as several bridges have connected all the districts to the capital. It is not only creating heavy traffic but also is destroying the environment by causing air pollution and noise pollution. It is also destroying the roads of Dhaka city. The circular ring roads are mandatory now to get rid of these problems.
The good thing about these ring roads is an infrastructural setup for the construction is already there. The land is already there for Tongi to Sadarghat and Tongi to Kanchpurand the government need not acquire new lands rather the government will need to reclaim the land from the illegal land-grabbers only. These roads are already slightly in operation and the government has to expand, which will not require huge budget.
It is critical that, the circular ring road from Tongi to Sadarghat and Tongi to Kanchpur is built soon. This should not be considered as a mega project as that will require long-term planning and implementation. The government should first build a 100 feet road and then gradually take it up to 300 feet. It is very important that, the already operating roads must not be closed for construction as that will make the situation of Dhaka traffic a nightmare. They must make a diversion road first and then should go on with full construction. It is a must that, this circular ring road is built with utmost importance and utmost speed.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday asked for stepping up measures including construction of ring roads around the capital to cope with the additional pressure of traffic following the Padma Bridge opening. If most transport heading to or coming from the bridge cross the capital, it would lead to gridlock in and around Dhaka, she said. The prime minister had also asked for timely implementation of the Strategic Transport Plan including construction of ring roads around the capital so that all did not need to cross the already busy areas of the Dhaka city to use the Padma Bridge.We are thankful that, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the architect of developed Bangladesh, has shifted her focus on the ring roads surrounding Dhaka as a traffic solution.
Moreover, we need to find solutions to the already existing problems of traffic congestion in Dhaka city. We must decentralize the government services, educational institutions and healthcare facilities. We have to encourage the guardians to admit their children at schools and colleges at their locality to reduce intra-city movement for education. We must clear the illegally occupied footpaths and roads. The traffic management system must be improved. Proper city bus service has to be introduced to reduce traffic congestion.
Along with that, few temporary steps can be taken to control the traffic movement of Dhaka right now. The Army and BGB should be deployed at Dhaka entry and exit points right now to control the traffic movement especially considering the eid season. They can play a good role and their involvement will assist the traffic police a lot. Additionally, a traffic diversion strategy should be generated and implemented quickly as a temporary solution. But whatever we do, the circular ring road will remain the key solution to address the traffic congestion problem of Dhaka city.
To ensure our economic growth and to sustain our development, it is very critical to save Dhaka city as we have heavily invested in this city. Bangladesh turned into a role model of development under the farsighted leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. This transformation will be related to the sustainability of Dhaka to a great extent. We hope the government will immediately start works of the circular ring roads surrounding Dhaka to control traffic congestion in Dhaka city.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency
(MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla
and Chief Patron, Bangabandhu
Shishu Kishore Mela