We appreciate the High Court’s timely directive to the government to prepare a masterplan to address Dhaka’s traffic congestion. Over the past few decades, the city’s traffic jam has turned acute due to corruption and mismanagement in the road and transport sector. Also, Dhaka’s transport system suffers from a lack of vision, which is evident from the various projects undertaken by the government in the past to ease traffic movement in the city. According to government estimates, the flyovers in Dhaka serve only eight percent of the commuters. Currently, the construction work of several mega projects, including Dhaka Metro Rail Project, is underway and, once completed, these are supposed to ease the city’s traffic gridlock. However, the government cannot remain oblivious to the fact that people’s sufferings have increased because of mismanagement in the construction of these projects. Of course, such projects are needed to relieve the capital city of its perennial traffic congestion. But what is also needed is coordination among the government agencies concerned, which is seriously lacking.
According to a BUET report, traffic congestion eats up five million working hours and costs the economy Tk 37,000 crore a year. A World Bank analysis in 2017 found that the average traffic speed in Dhaka has dropped from 21 km to 7 km (per hour), only slightly above the average walking speed. But transport experts believe that this congestion can be reduced by 40 percent just by improving the management of traffic and creating public awareness. Increasing the number of public transports, having designated spots for car parking, building more footbridges, and freeing up the footpaths for pedestrians’ use are some of the basic steps which can make a lot of difference. Therefore, instead of taking isolated projects to curb the city’s traffic jam, the government should go for preparing a masterplan with the assistance of all the stakeholders.