The notorious traffic congestion of the capital Dhaka costs some Taka 20,000 crore every year, an amount which is nearly two-thirds of the national budget, in terms of accumulated economic losses, said a study report carried out by a research group jointly with a leading business chamber.“The congestion exposes the country to an estimated loss of Taka 19,555 crore a year and 8.16 million work hours every day,” said the study carried out by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport Bangladesh in collaboration with Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI).
Home Minister Sahara Khatun joined the launching of the report in the MCCI auditorium where she acknowledged traffic congestion and accidents to be an issue of major national concern but feared that there was no readymade solution to the problem as it did not appear overnight.
“Traffic congestion is now a national problem as it has spread to the densely populated divisional and district towns of the country,” she told the function as transport engineers Abdullah Al Mamun and Syed Moinul Hassan and transport economist Marufa Ishmat presented their study outcome.
But, she said, the government undertook a massive programme to solve traffic congestion equating it with power crisis while works were underway to construct five flyovers at five main intersections of the capital.
Sahara said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina already inaugurated the construction works of Kuril and Gulistan-Jatrabari flyovers while preparations were underway to build three more flyovers in Moghbazar, Mouchak and Mirpur areas.The minister said the government also decided to construct a 32 kilometer elevated expressway from Uttara to Jatrabari to ease traffic congestion and set up a surface and underground railway- based communications system for the city by 2030.
“The population of Dhaka City will exceed two crore by 2030 and the government has planned to build a traffic system suitable for the two crore people,” she said.
Chaired by MCCI President M Anis-ud-Dawla, the seminar was addressed, among others, by Vice-Chancellor of BRAC University Dr Ainun Nishat, former communication secretary Syed Rezaul Hayat, journalist Zahiduzzaman Faruque, Dhaka’s Police Commissioner AKM Shahidul Haque and former Ambassador Ashfaqur Rahman.
Speaking at the function, former communication secretary Syed Rezaul Hayat, however, said a smooth coordination among the ministries of home, communications and Dhaka city Corporation (DCC) was a must while construction of new roads to eastwest directions alongside introduction of commuter trains appeared urgently essential to ease the traffic jam.
The study took into account the issues of costs of vehicle operations, waste of time, business loss and traffic accidents while it suggested decentralization of administrative and business facilities to retard population growth in Dhaka, promote ICT for trip substitution as remedial measures.
The report came weeks after the government launched a crackdown on hundreds of rundown and unfit vehicles as part of a desperate campaign to ease Dhaka’s traffic congestion alongside regulating vehicle movement in the city.
The decision came after the government proclaimed an order to redesign the capital Dhaka requiring reclamation of 3,000 acres of land occupied by influential real estate companies, dubbed as “land pirates” under Detailed Area Plan (DAP) for the capital to prevent flooding and ease the traffic congestion.
A police report released in August last year suggested a series of steps including construction of underground and overground railway and elevated expressways alongside efficient public transport systems as the city’s traffic jam exceeded its own records in recent periods.
“Otherwise, the traffic policemen could reduce the traffic jam by as high as 10 percent through their hard labour, but a permanent solution to the nagging problem will not be possible,” a senior police official said.
According to several previous reports, Dhaka only has seven to eight percent road infrastructure compared to 25 percent needed ideally according to universal thumb rule.