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The Financial Express
Swasti Lankabangla Swasti Lankabangla

Dhaka\'s intractable traffic congestion

| Updated: October 22, 2017 16:40:29


Dhaka\'s intractable traffic congestion

In Dhaka, commuters experience irritable jams on their way to workplaces or back home. Vehicles come to a standstill or proceed, if at all, with the speed of a tortoise! During the rush hours, traffic congestion forces pedestrians to climb over empty rickshaws or small pickups just to cross the road. Amid relentless sound of traffic horns, commuters are subjected to an overdose of sound pollution. 
Undoubtedly, ignorance is bliss as far as Dhaka's traffic problem is concerned. Since Dhaka is simultaneously the world's 20th most populous megacity and its densest one, improving Dhaka's road network deserves greater government attention in terms of prioritisation. Unlike most capitals, Dhaka's infrastructure is hardly proportional to its population. Recently, the Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) claimed that only 60 out of the capital's 650 major intersections are equipped with adequate traffic facilities and the traffic police seem to be fewer in numbers.
Apparently, Dhaka's traffic congestion is not trivial in terms of economics, costing approximately $3.8 billion per year. The traffic problem is causing a loss in the quality of life and social capital. Ironically, Dhaka's speedy growth is dependent on its weak infrastructure. In the absence of a rapid transit system to facilitate suburban commuters, temporary residents have no choice but to crowd into Dhaka's inner neighbourhoods. Already packed with jaywalkers and callous rickshaw-pullers, roads are too constricted to accommodate the asymmetrical movement of CNG auto-rickshaws, buses, and motorcycles in a chorus. The authorities can build more rickshaw-free roads and broaden existing ones. 
Recently, the World Bank reported that Dhaka's 1.5 million rickshaw-pullers daily serve one million passengers. A drastic policy of obliging people to replace rickshaws with buses can be futile because Dhaka's privatised bus transportation is incompatible with commuter needs. To survive growing competition, bus companies - frequently change their routes or schedules; allow drivers to speed recklessly; pick random passengers beyond vehicular capacity; and overcharge them. The government should find ways to regulate Dhaka's bus service.
Nevertheless, separation of rickshaws and various automobiles in the form of partitioned lanes and intersections might combat a traffic gridlock. Despite such optimism, road conditions will never improve if people continue using rickshaws and obsolete fleet of buses amid pollution and heat. Dhaka is deprived of a safe and efficient public transport system.
Furthermore, Dhaka's infrastructural projects contain no fixed time-limits for implementation and often let traffic jams to aggravate. Constructions can hardly avoid face-off between the government's monitoring bodies and private contractors causing further delays in the process with unwarranted incidents. Attempts to enforce basic driving rules, to reduce the pointless number of private cars and to streamline the capital's bus service should be made.       
Average commuters can only think of uncertainty when it comes to Dhaka's regular traffic. Arguably, a country's development can be measured by the amount of benefits people attain from the public transport system in urban areas. Therefore, Dhaka must upgrade its present road conditions at a par with international standards. Otherwise, it carries no weight in becoming South Asia's most expensive city, particularly when the traffic congestion continues to trouble commuters.
nabil.dewan@gmail.com

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