THE economy is losing nearly Tk20,000crore a year due to horrendous traffic jams that plague the capital city. This is hardly surprising. A mere 3,000 policemen are battling to coordinate traffic in a megacity the size of Dhaka with nearly a million vehicles plying the city, which is undoubtedly a daunting task. But then this is not merely an issue of having too few personnel on the streets. The fact that Dhaka has 8 per cent of its area allotted to roads against a recommended 25 per cent and a mere 2.5 per cent of existing roads capable of handling motorised vehicles only adds to the woes of long tailbacks. One simply cannot overlook the additional chaos caused by open flouting of traffic rules and people plying on roads as opposed to pavements that have long become the abode of illegal structures.
With both motorised and manually-drawn vehicles plying inadequate roads, the situation cannot be expected to get better unless unlicensed pedalled rickshaws are phased out and a limit put to it projecting it to the future. That the city's 15million or so residents are held captive to frequent stoppages in traffic to let VIPs pass is another crippling feature of daily life on the road. And why must Dhaka remain a hub for manufacturing activity which automatically increase the population pressure on the city roads and hamper vehicular movements. There is no recourse to building more roads and putting in place mass transportation systems like the much-talked-about metro rail. Crucially, city planners must develop peripheral suburban areas and connect these to lessen the population and vehicular pressure on Dhaka.