Must Dhaka be worst in everything?
It is disheartening to learn of a study by the US-based National Bureau of Economic Research that has ranked Dhaka as the slowest city in the world. This "accolade" is yet another testament to the city's failure overall – among the worst globally in terms of pollution, air quality, road safety, liveability, and now speed of vehicular movement. We cannot help but wonder why, despite transportation being one of the sectors that attracted massive government financing, Dhaka is still "excelling" in all the wrong areas, and why the investments in Dhaka are still focused on easy and visible solutions disregarding core issues of development.
The US study found that Dhaka is not only the slowest overall, but also ranks second-slowest in uncongested speed. This means that even with minimal traffic load, movement remains generally slow. Dhaka does not have a coordinated or technologically aided traffic regulation system in place. Its authorities have largely failed to enforce traffic rules, and find a solution for how vehicles of different speeds and pedestrians can move through this densely populated area. Roads are flooded even after moderate rainfall, bringing the entire city to a standstill. Political processions, VIP movements and simultaneous construction/development works in multiple areas frequently combine to block major roads, even during peak hours.
The study underscores that the worst-ranked cities have failed to accommodate the rapid rise in population. Being the centre of almost all administrative and economic activities, as well as the hub of education, employment, and basic amenities, Dhaka has naturally seen a surge in its own population. Experts, therefore, have repeatedly pointed out that without comprehensive efforts to decentralise Dhaka, its conditions will not be improved. Unfortunately, we have yet to see any visible efforts in that regard.
In this connection, one may recall that a recent study by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) has revealed that, on average, 23 minutes are lost per hour due to traffic jams in the city. This not only wastes productive hours; it is also a major contributor to increased fuel consumption, carbon emission, air pollution, temperature rise and deterioration in public health. Internationally, this state has brought nothing but disgrace for Bangladesh, and likely has detrimental effects on our tourism aspirations and even chances of attracting foreign investments.
Therefore, we urge the authorities to acknowledge the dire condition of Dhaka, understand the complexity of its developmental issues, and look beyond extravagant, visible solutions to make this city liveable for the residents.