A news item published recently in different daily newspapers of Dhaka says that vehicle import increased 54.78% in fiscal year 2005. Quoting the Chief Controller of Export and Import, it stated that dealers imported all kinds of new and re-conditioned motor vehicles worth US $ 117.70 million (equivalent to Taka 7650 million) during the period against that of US $ 76.04 million imported in 2003-2004 fiscal year.
The report narrated that during 2004-05, vehicles such as three-wheelers and human haulers worth US$ 43.99 million were imported, clocking over a 300% growth. Side by side, cars worth US $ 15.32 million, buses worth US $ 11.47 million, Trucks worth US $ 15.95 million and motor cycles valued at US $ 26.19 million were imported, posting 20.54%, 19.89%, 15% and 16.58% growth respectively. The statistics further reveal that the import of minibuses decreased as dealers imported minibuses valued at US$ 4.79 million in 2004-05 fiscal year against the import of the same worth US$ 7.96 million in 2003-04 fiscal year.
Besides, another important aspect of road transportation vis-à-vis traffic and other related issues is the issuance of route permits for presently available 740 routes all over the country to different categories of motorised vehicles like bus, minibuses etc. Statistical data of route permits issued in Bangladesh from BRTA Headquarters, Narayanganj Zone and 19 Circles all over the country in 2004 calendar year has been collected from the BRTA recently. Traffic and transportation issues of Dhaka city have been dealt at length by different quarters which include Dhaka Integrated Transport Study (DITS), DUTP/DTCB, DCC, Bangladesh Planning Commission, consultants, experts, different researchers, development partners and others since '90s or earlier, but unfortunately the route permit-related matters did hardly get any importance in their studies/recommendations. None has given any in-depth attention to route permit affairs and its intricacies. But without proper attention to this issue, it is very difficult to understand traffic hazards and relevant environmental issues. There is no appropriately designed standard procedure of issuing route permits to different categories of vehicles by the BRTA.
Statistical Data of Route Permit Issued in Bangladesh in the year 2004
The statistics relating to year-wise registered motorised vehicles all over the country in general and the Dhaka city in particular, reveal that the number of Dhaka city's total registered vehicles is 44.72% of the country's total. In the calendar year 1996, a total of 12476 motor cars -- the highest number in a single year -- were registered in Bangladesh whereas the share of Dhaka city in it was 8366 motor cars. In the calendar year 2004, a total of 5410 motor cars were registered in Bangladesh in which the Dhaka city's share was 4734 -- about 87.50% of the total. The trend in other calendar years starting from 1997 to 2003 is almost the same, i.e. of the total registered motor cars in Bangladesh, Dhaka's share was about 85% or more in every year.
It means that Dhaka city is getting crowded with different types of motor cars and the concerned authority has preferred to be indifferent. Furthermore, the report of 300% increase of smaller vehicles like human haulers, and three wheelers during 2004-05 fiscal year in comparison to those of the previous fiscal year is alarming. And if this trend goes unabated (and there is no reason why this trend will not continue), a major portion of Dhaka city roads will be occupied by these categories of vehicles in 2007.
Many of the sensible people of Dhaka city and the country as well, are confused whether there is, or was, any appropriate authority to look after this 'danger' which is getting manifested in so many dimensions, creating hazards such as environmental pollutions and clogging of roads.
Similarly, the number of taxicabs registered in Bangladesh in 2003 was 5020 and Dhaka city's share in it was 4980 i.e. 99% of the taxi cabs were, as it appears, meant for Dhaka City. The total number of taxi cabs registered in the country until December, 2004, was 11472 (and Dhaka city's share in it was 9892). Of the total taxi cabs in operation in the country, about 70% were of Indian origin, mostly of poor quality and also responsible for air-pollution of a serious nature. The taxi-cab service has not been reviewed by any relevant authority since 1997-98, when it started operation in a big way, to find out its positive and negative aspects for taking appropriate measures.
Interestingly, as record shows, there were 27510 registered buses in the country until 1994 and during the period starting from 1995 calendar year to 2004 calendar year (10 years), only 3964 buses were added to the 'bus-fleet'. And during these 10 calendar years, Dhaka city's share was 3124 buses. Similarly, during fiscal year 1995-2004 period, 9979 minibuses were registered in the country in which Dhaka city's share was 5819. Of the registered buses in operation in Dhaka city and the country, possibly 70-80% are more than 15-20 years old, and many of them are responsible for environment pollutions, road accidents, road blockades and so on.
The above is one side of the story. Statistics collected from relevant sources state that the metropolitan city area is about 220 sq km and total length of roads, of different categories within metropolitan area is 1286 km which is shown below:
Primary Roads - 61.44 Kilometers
Secondary Roads - 108.20 Kilometers
Connector Roads - 221.35 Kilometers
Local Roads - 573.74 Kilometers
Narrow Roads - 331.27 Kilometers
Source: RMMS: 2003 (DTCB)
The writer is a former Secretary of Ministry of Science & ICT