Could DSCC be any more unrealistic?
If there existed an award for the most perfect example of someone putting the cart before the horse, the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) or those running it would be its top contender because of their move to install an artificial intelligence-driven signalling system in Dhaka. In one of the most congested cities in the world – where the rules of the jungle apply when it comes to traffic control – the idea would be comical if it did not mean the possibility of yet another bottomless pit for public funds to disappear in.
Our fears are substantiated by the fact that the DSCC has already spent Tk 119 crore of taxpayer's money to upgrade Dhaka's traffic signal system. This ambitious project was meant to give us digitised signal lights, solar-powered timer countdowns and digital display boards on major intersections – yet here we are, still depending on a largely manual traffic management system, and currently ranked as the third-worst country on the World Traffic Index.
Experts have warned that such projects are a waste of time when even the fundamentals of traffic management are missing from Dhaka's streets – with both motorised and non-motorised vehicles plying the same road, lanes not being followed, and the flow of vehicles generally being much higher than the capacity of the roads. The unplanned influx of newer vehicles landing on our already overcrowded roads, poor road conditions, and even poorer public transport networks are only making the situation worse.
Added to that is the fact that the government's own Strategic Transport Plan, which involves clearing footpaths, connecting roads outside Dhaka, improving public transport management and more, is not being followed. And we all know that even a little bit of rain can clog Dhaka's streets, and make the city come to a standstill. In this situation, it seems almost ludicrous to suggest that an AI-driven signalling system can suddenly solve our traffic woes.
What is even more concerning is that, in their misplaced idealism, the DSCC has already paid Tk 5 crore to a consultant firm to conduct a feasibility study for running 53 of its designated traffic signal points with AI technology. Could this money not have been put to better use in a city that still depends on hand gestures from traffic police, as well as ropes, cones and bamboo fences on major roads, to regulate traffic?
The current government has pledged to make this country a Smart Bangladesh by 2041, and we can only assume that this ill-informed plan is the DSCC's attempt to keep up with this promise. But what it really shows is just how out-of-touch the city corporation truly is with reality. Perhaps, before taking this project any further or before any more similarly unrealistic projects are taken up to solve Dhaka's traffic nightmare, making the relevant authorities slightly more familiar with ordinary people's everyday reality should be made the first priority. We urge the authorities to undertake initiatives that actually deliver results on the streets.