Mega projects make Dhaka life miserable

Shahin Akhter | Updated at 12:16am on March 18, 2018

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Metrorail construction works in the middle of the road create huge tailback on both sides. This photo was taken at Mirpur 10 crossing in Dhaka on Saturday. — Sanaul Haque

Long-term mega projects in the capital, in absence of short-term solutions, have added to people’s sufferings due to traffic gridlock, public transport crisis and occupied footpaths when these projects are aimed to bring comfort to city life.
Both government officials and road transport experts fear that the sufferings will not only continue but also increase if short-term and low-cost alternatives could not be devised immediately.
Instead of taking expensive project-based long-term solutions, the government should use the existing infrastructures and facilities at a maximum level to solve the current problems in city transport sector, the experts say.
Brining buses under few companies and systematic operation, introducing city train services on the existing tracks and improving the environment of stations, more facilities for pedestrians and parking and efficient traffic management are the key short-term and low-cost solutions, they suggest.
Naveed Chowdhury, an Uttara resident, said that back in 2013 and 2014 he regularly travelled by trains from airport station to Tejgaon station for reaching office at Satrasta.
‘It took maximum half an hour to cross the distance while it would even three hours to cross the same distance by bus,’ he said.
After his office moved to Hatirpool, train travel was no more viable for him as there was no nearby station, Naveed said.
‘It is not easy for a woman to avail trains as the environment is dirty, congested and sometimes dangerous,’ said Shamim Akhter, a Dhanmondi resident.
Abul Bashar, a Mirpur resident, said after the construction of metro rail (MRT line 6) had started it took sometimes three hours to cross Kazipara-press club stretch which earlier took about 40 minutes.
The congestion now eased only at late night, he said, adding, ‘There must be some relief for us.’
Traffic congestion, a regular phenomenon, is taking its toll on both working hours and money on the city roads.
Lack of public transports, in terms of both quality and quantity, has been a major cause of sufferings, especially for women, children, senior citizens and physically challenged people.
Absence of footpaths, occupied footpaths, illegal and haphazard parking, reckless driving following unhealthy competition among transport owners and almost no obedience to traffic laws and government-fixed fare charts are also day-to-day phenomena.
Therefore, no wonder that Dhaka has been ranked as the fourth least liveable city among 140 cities in the world as per the Global Liveability Report 2017.
According to Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority, at present about 30 million trips are being generated in the capital per day out of which about 47 per cent are carried by buses and minibuses.
By 2035, when the proposed five Mass Rapid Transit and two Bus Rapid Transit lines are expected to be implemented, these systems will be able to carry about 17 per cent commuters and about 40 per cent will be carried by buses.
Currently, construction of MRT line 6 is ongoing on Uttara-Motijheel route, which is scheduled to be completed in 2024.
The progress of the country’s first BRT line between Gazipur and Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport is only about 18 per cent till November 2017 which is scheduled to be completed by this December.
The overall progress of Dhaka Elevated Expressway on airport-Kutubkhali route was nearly 10 per cent till November last year which is scheduled to be completed by 2020.
Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology’s civil engineering department professor Shamsul Hoque said that there was mention of short-term and low-cost solutions for commuters in both Strategic Transport Plan and Revised STP.
But the government had gone for capital-intensive long-term solutions without fulfilling the preconditions, he alleged.
Traffic enforcement, parking, signal, footpath and roadside management and rationalisation of public transports were the low-cost solutions which would bring immediate relief for commuters, he suggested.
Work for a Better Bangladesh, Trust project officer Atiqur Rahman said that according to Bangladesh Railway about 10,000 standing tickets and about three times more tickets for seats on airport-Kamalapur route are sold daily.
In recent times, intercity trains were not stopping at Tejgaon for lack of manpower which also discouraged people to use trains, he observed.
‘If dedicated trains are introduced on Gazipur-Kamalapur-Narayanganj route, people will use it as the journey takes only 35 minutes,’ he said.
Atiq also asked how many people would be able to avail expensive metro rail system.
Besides, Sarwar Jahan, director of Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, also wondered if the city people would get respite from chaos in the transport sector as Dhaka was an unplanned city.
Different mega projects were under implementation while number of private cars and rickshaws was increasing in Dhaka, said the former professor of BUET urban and regional planning department.
He said bus rapid transit-related projects, facilities for pedestrians and low-cost public transport arrangement were solutions to the existing problem but they were not getting priority.
Transportation consultant SM Salehuddin said buses should be brought under mass transit system and under some companies for systemic, safer and fruitful operation in parallel with mega projects.
He, also former executive director of the then Dhaka Transport Coordination Board, said public transports should be increased to discourage private cars and motorcycles owners.
DTCA executive director Syed Ahmed said bus route franchise was the best solutions for city dwellers which would cost low.
‘If this is implemented, the commuters will get relief,’ he said, adding that buses were the best solutions for common people.