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Easing traffic congestions in Dhaka
Syed Ishtiaque Reza

          DHAKA'S traffic situation has once again turned appalling. Not only during rush hours, some of the city roads are busy for the whole day. Except for one or two roads, the electronic signal system has no effect on the roads. All the roads are seen clogged for hours together.
Dhaka City, the capital of Bangladesh, has been experiencing traffic congestion along with rapid population increase. The intolerable traffic congestion in the city has become an everyday hazard for the dwellers. Although Dhaka City's area is less than one per cent of the country's total land area, it supports about 7.2 per cent of the total population of the country.
In fact, Dhaka is an over-populated, over-congested and over-polluted city. Years of negligence, mismanagement and improper planning have led Dhaka to this present predicament.
The metropolis has several types of vehicles. These include cars, micro-buses and other private vehicles of higher income group. Rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, bicycles, motor cycles, buses, minibuses for the middle income group of people. For the lower income group of people there are buses and tempos. There are also trucks, pick-ups, vans and human pulled vans for goods delivery.
There is no single cause of congestion in Dhaka. Usually, rickshaws are identified as the biggest factor for traffic congestion. But it is found that the roads which were made rickshaw-free long ago are also not free of jams.
The improvements of roads, erection of dividers and installation of automatic signals improved the situation for a few days. But now in most cases the signals on many roads are either out of order or the traffic police personnel on duty prefer manual handling of transports. So, the ultimate result is day-long congestion. One of the major reasons is a significant increase in population and also all types of vehicles. Another major reason is the simultaneous presence of motorised and non-motorised vehicles on the same street.
These are the problems which are common in any poor country. But it is also perceived that there are instances of traffic mismanagement, poor transportation and infrastructure planning. All of the major industries, corporate offices, significant number of Export Promotion Zones, the head offices of almost all multi-nationals, thousands of garment factories, higher educational facilities and even the major international airport of the country, all are located in or around the city. The capital city is also the economic hub of the whole country. For these reasons, most of the rural-urban migration of Bangladesh is towards Dhaka City. The increased population multiplied the demand for vehicles on the streets. Different types of vehicles move at different speeds on the road to create chaos and congestion.
There is no doubt that the root cause of Dhaka's traffic congestion is its unplanned growth. New developments are always taking place in Dhaka without any planned road connection system. Lack of minimum required road structure and disproportionate road width compared to the traffic load have always been a problem.
The city has very inadequate road networks, which are only eight to ten percent of the total city area, whereas the acceptable ratio is 25 percent. Greater Dhaka has a total road network of approximately 2230km of which 25 per cent are primary roads. The width of the roads varies from six to 40 metres. The main roads are 15 to 25 metre wide, newly built roads are 40 metre wide while the roads in the older part of Dhaka are too narrow.
Traffic police personnel say when the city does not have adequate road networks, VIP movement is another big problem for them to handle. Not only the prime minister or the president, many ministers, a few state ministers as well as some civil and military high officials avail of VIP protocols on the busy roads forcing traffic police to stop normal movement of others.
Thousands of big and small shopping centers have mushroomed on the main roads. As these have no adequate parking lots, the roads in front of them always remain clogged. The road network of Dhaka city is incomplete. Old Dhaka and some other places of the city are difficult to access.
The city has a very limited public transport system. Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation is the lone public sector service provider with limited capacity. The private transport operators which are running buses, minibuses for the people are largely reckless.
Expansion and upgradation of public transport services, especially with high capacity buses is one way of solving the crisis. The other is construction of more roads including flyovers. The country has a long rail network covering a good part of the city. This network may be used not only for long distance travel but also for movements within the city.
The policy planners should think about alternative growth areas. Dhaka City no more can bear the load of its population and provide them the adequate services. A new approach is highly essential to avoid the possible decay of the city and its economic decline. Relocation of the airport, the cantonment, garment units and many other structures to outside Dhaka can pave the way for better planning of the city. Besides, a national plan is needed to involve landless and jobless rural people in income generating activities to stop their migration to the capital.


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