INCOHERENT development of road infrastructure with utter negligence to railway and inland waterways over the past three decades has regrettably inhibited the success in the transport sector. Transport system, particularly for Dhaka, a city known for its traffic congestion, could have improved if an integrated traffic system had been in place. The neglected railway and waterways in and around Dhaka, as New Age reported on Saturday, are in a rundown condition, leaving people with no choice but to rely solely on road transports. The railway and waterway services that are available for people living in the city to commute to Dhaka from Narayanganj or Tongi are inadequate and suffer from under-maintenance. At present, a total of 16 pairs of commuter trains between Dhaka and Narayanganj and four pairs between Dhaka and Joydevpur run on weekdays. Almost 15,000 people from Narayanganj and 10,000 more from Gandaria, Fatullah and Chashara travel to Dhaka using commuter trains every day. According to the Revised Strategic Transport Plan 2015–2035, the Dhaka metropolitan area had a population of 9.3 million in 2011 when the greater Dhaka area, composed of Dhaka, Gazipur, Manikganj, Munshiganj, Narayanganj, and Narshingdi, has 24.4 million or more residents. The circular waterway along the rivers Buriganga, Turag, Balu and Sitalakhya, a gift of the nature, can substantially ease up the perennial traffic congestion on the capital’s surface roads if they are used in a planned manner. Undoubtedly, an integrated transport system would have not only improved the traffic situation in the city but also provided people with opportunities to live in nearby towns easing Dhaka’s population burden.
A tripartite interest of the politicians, road transport and construction industry and foreign aid motivated the negligence to railway and waterways. For successive governments, the overriding objectives of the road development have been to earn politicians a ready political gain. Foreign aid organisations have shown apathy towards the development of railway and waterways apparently to cater to the public demand for door-to-door road transport networks. Besides, the projects funded by the World Bank are largely interested in constructing regional transits and ensuring easy transport of goods and commodities in accordance with their unequal global economic policy. It goes without saying that the private sector is here to serve their profiteering interest. Therefore, the public transport system remains outside the focus of policymakers. The large projects that are under way in the Dhaka city such as express way or metro rail will mainly serve the interest of private vehicle owners and high-income groups. It is in this context that the government must review its strategic transport plan with due attention to the waterway and railway systems.
The government, under the circumstances, must pay due attention to the revival and improvement of the railway and waterways. It should allocate resources for these two neglected transport sectors to bring them back on track as the sectors have enormous potential to make contribution to the economic growth.
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