Offsetting Dhaka traffic requires pragmatic & coordinated approach

Published : Tuesday, 15 January, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Traffic jam has become intolerable over the last few days in Dhaka city after the national election. Citizens of this city are going through continuous hazards caused by this heavy traffic. With schools opened after the year-end vacation along with ongoing metro rail project and Dhaka elevated expressway project works, ongoing Dhaka international Trade Fair, rise in private vehicles of ride-sharing companies and many things else, the situation turned hazardous to the most. It seems like there is no end of the sufferings of the citizens of Dhaka as there is no visible steps to remove Dhaka city orientation of people from around the country.

Despite Bangladesh’s huge development in so many areas during the last decade, we are yet to find any proper solutions to traffic jams in country’s only megacity and it is diminishing many of our hard fought accomplishments. Hence, a visionary and coordinated action plan is required to eliminate the biggest headache of Dhaka city dwellers.

As soon as we step out of our homes, we are trapped inside the Dhaka traffic. When a foreigner, may be a prospective investor, comes out of the airport, he is welcome by ugly traffic chaos. Our development cannot be portrayed by the traffic of megacity Dhaka. This is not only creating mental illness for this city’s dwellers but also is giving a wrong message to the whole world. Undoubtedly, the current government in its last two terms has executed and initiated huge development works. But looking at the Dhaka traffic, all citizens feel the development was an illusion. Though few projects like; Metro Rail and Elevated Expressway are underway, but the associated project planners might not know much about creating alternative plans to contain the traffic jam caused by these projects. Hence, these projects’ works have come as a curse for the Dhaka citizens.

Already traumatized by the lengthy completion time of few flyovers in this city, the people are yet to continue suffering from traffic congestion and dust pollution. We never know when these works are going to be completed. With only first stage works of the metro rail project, Dhaka is being victim of huge traffic jam and when the works of elevated expressway will tag, the situation will be awful. This is actually raising question over our efficiency as well as effectiveness of any development project.

The protocol of our ministers is a very disturbing thing for the Dhaka dwellers. They enjoy smooth movement of their vehicles as we keep staring at them standing still allowing them to pass through for several minutes. They often drove their cars through the wrong side though that has decreased a lot after road safety protests of the students. If these ministers could have experienced the sufferings of the people in traffic, some solutions might have come out earlier.

It is very praiseworthy that the current government is showing some good signs as after taking oath, the ministers went to Savar and Tungipara to pay tribute to the lost souls of liberation war and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman respectively by buses rather than their own cars. It was only four buses instead of several cars. This depicts Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s acknowledgement of the traffic situation and commitment towards its elimination.

Along with the abovementioned problems, several other issues are contributing in huge traffic jam in Dhaka city. Holding a large and lengthy event like Dhaka International Trade Fair (DITF) in city’s central location cannot be understood considering the traffic context of Dhaka city. Several events like such throughout the year create chaos on the roads. Moreover, the students of Dhaka city often travels to a distant location from their homes for schooling as there is not many standard schools nearby. They mostly move with their parents in private cars or public vehicles creating traffic jam.
The ignorant acts of our citizens also create traffic jam as they are always found crossing the roads through undesignated part of the street without caring about the ongoing flow of the vehicles. They do not use the pavements, walkways, foot-over bridges etc. They do not listen to the law enforcers also. On top of that, the footpaths in Dhaka are mostly occupied by hawkers or street vendors. They often block the streets also with their business causing traffic haphazard. Moreover, the traffic control and management in Dhaka city seems to be extremely poor as our traffic officials are not at all efficient and also corrupt. All these problems require to be addressed soon to offset the traffic congestion from this city.

Despite the construction of several flyovers, arranging designated parking places, marking bus stops and strict action against wrong-side driving, traffic congestion in Dhaka continues to exacerbate. Citizens now can feel that flyovers will not help much to eliminate traffic jam as at the end of a flyover, all vehicles enter a normal road creating severe bottleneck. Experts on several instances suggested pragmatic steps of the government to ensure sufficient public transport, restore discipline in the transport sector, lessen the use of private and small vehicles and expand the city to significantly ease the traffic jam without spending huge money to ease traffic pressure on roads and facilitate the commuters hassle-free transportation services. But that even might not be of much help considering the current context driving us to think from a different viewpoint.

Several actions can be taken from the government to control the traffic situation of Dhaka as it is directly influencing the existence of this city. Some of these are short term and few are long term. Among the short term solutions, firstly the government needs to free the footpaths from the hawkers. It is not only by forceful uprooting but also by relocating their business as they are also the citizens of Bangladesh and their employment is also the concern of the government. Similarly as the developed countries, these 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 should ensure training of the traffic officials and should include them in its anti-corruption drive. The traffic officials must ensure that, the citizens crosses the roads through designated places, none walks on the roads and also must ensure smart traffic management for which they need true intent. Along with that, no public transport should stop at any places other than assigned stoppages. No vehicles should be parked here and there. The traffic police should not concentrate on filing cases for their own benefits rather they should come out as citizens’ traffic education partner.

For the long term plans, the government should build a ring-road surrounding the Dhaka city which will work as a by-pass for the inter-district transports using Dhaka as a transit. It will significantly lower traffic congestion in Dhaka. Talking about mega projects like Metro Rail or Elevated Expressway, the government must put the highest emphasis on quick completion. They need to create by-pass routes for vehicles’ movement and the traffic control must be ensured. Plans like this must be a part of the integrated development plan of Dhaka so that no overlapping of works occurs.

Among the long term plans, the most important is to reduce Dhaka-orientation of the Bangaldeshi people to the lowest. That will require availability of best quality education and health facility at least at every district headquarters. It should be compatible to the facilities available at Dhaka. The primary education of any student should be contained only in their own thana so that they don’t need cars to reach school.

The government should have taken this step even before the start of this schooling year. Then the government must ensure that every student at each district avails education and medical services in his own district. This can be done through initiation of a city resident card for each citizen which will come up with some citizen facility working as a social security card. Moreover, the government should focus on shifting administrative offices, industries and universities in the outskirts of Dhaka. Otherwise there is no way that Dhaka will sustain with such an increasing population.

Not only Dhaka traffic has negative impact on the citizen’s life but also adversely impacts the economy. We are losing $336 million in loss of fuel cost due to slow traffic movement. Along with different promises, the government must proactively fight this problem. They even can take some small steps like; making few busy roads one-way during the opening and closing time of the offices, ensuring sufficient quality schools and colleges at every ward or thana, initiating quality services from the public vehicles etc. to fight traffic congestion.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is a visionary leader for which the citizens bestowed upon their trust on her for the consecutive third term as the head of the government. We believe she knows our problems and can provide us the best solution. We hope that along with her commitment to eliminate corruption, she will also express commitment to reduce traffic jam from Dhaka. If she does that, the Dhaka dwellers will be able to find some peace and with her leadership we can always hope for a beautiful Dhaka city.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)

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