A case study of traffic jam
THE road that stretches westward from Mymensing/VIP road to Paribag mosque keeping Prio-Prangon, a high rise building, on one side and a CNG filling station on other side is known as Paribag road. The road is about 40 feet wide and half a kilometer in length. Till the 80's, this road, with a very limited number of one or two storied houses on either side, was all quiet. There was hardly any traffic.
The road now, with a number of high rise buildings stretching along both sides, accommodates nearly 300 apartments (another 250 under construction) and at least an equal number of vehicles and has turned out to be one of the busiest roads, causing unbelievable traffic jam, not to mention the environmental hazard that is being caused by exhaust smoke and the deafening sound of the endless stream of vehicles passing through.
The two roundabouts, one near the Paribag mosque and the other hardly hundred yards away from the first one, joining the roads leading to Hatirpul market and Aziz market, have no traffic signal, and are apparently the main causes of the horrendous traffic jams that more often than not keep the traffic at standstill for hours, causing unimaginable suffering to the residents as well as the passers by.
The pavements on either side of the road are either badly damaged or illegally occupied by small traders or by real estate developers who keep their building materials on the roads and pavements, making it almost impossible for the pedestrians to negotiate their way through.
At times we see one or two traffic police trying to control the traffic flow but to no avail. Soon they give up their fruitless effort and instead pass their time sitting idle and taking tea in a nearby tea stall that has illegally but safely occupied the pavement in exchange of underhand deal.
During the caretaker government of Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, the Shahbag Police authority, probably as part of their newly introduced program to be friends of the public, invited us (the residents of Paribag and adjacent areas) to a meeting to exchange views and discuss about the local problems. We attended the meeting and brought to the notice of the police and the other related agencies of the government present there, the perennial problem and the causes of traffic jams, and also suggested some measures to improve the situation.
We particularly requested the authorities concerned to remove the jumbo-size waste bin of the city corporation near the entrance of the VIP road and place it where it will not be an obstacle to the flow of traffic. We also requested the placement of some traffic police at the two roundabouts on permanent basis to control the situation. They assured us that the problems would be dealt with. Unfortunately, they did nothing, except allowing the situation to deteriorate to a point where life has become almost unbearable.
Because of the endless traffic jams, students find it difficult to reach their schools in time. I wonder what happens when someone suffers a heart attack and needs immediate medical attention. The Paribag case is certainly not the lone one. It is more or less the same scenario in most areas of Dhaka city. In some areas it may be even worse.
The TIB had enough time and interest to find out how much the government exchequer had lost in terms of money because of the quorum probleminour parliament. Why don't they find out how much monetary loss (loss of time and fuel) the people of Dhaka city have to incur every day because of traffic jams, and how many patients die because they cannot reach a hospital in time?
The newly installed government of Sheikh Hasina has commendably undertaken a good number of high-profile development as well as social welfare programs that include extension of safety network and food security, reform of the education sector, and construction of Padma Bridge. It has undertaken the much-needed trial of war criminals, early completion of Bangabandhu murder case, reinvestigation and trial of the 10-truck arms case and the August-21 grenade attack in order to establish rule of law in the country.
Where, however, we find it miserably falling behind is in handling the perennial urban problems of water, electricity and traffic jam. We haven't as yet seen any visible progress towards mitigating the intolerable sufferings of the people caused by acute crisis of the service sector. For the capital city, traffic congestion, like water and electricity, is an issue that needs to be urgently dealt with.
We hear about the government's intention to undertake projects like elevated expressway, metro rail, eastern bypass and a circular river transport system in and around Dhaka city in order to address the traffic problem of the city. That's fine. The people would certainly welcome such projects and like to see that these projects are really implemented.
But these are all long-term projects, for implementation of which we have to wait for years. In the meantime, the government ought to take some urgent steps to address the basic issue like bringing discipline in the all too anarchic traffic management system of the city.
As immediate measures, they must free the roads and footpaths from the unauthorised and illegal occupiers, withdraw all old, unfit and unauthorised vehicles and rickshaws from the streets, introduce safe, comfortable and well controlled public bus and taxi cab and ensure strict compliance of traffic rules.