Undertaking expensive projects like flyovers and metro-rail have 'failed' to deliver, a number of experts said Saturday and offered alternatives for resolving the city's traffic snarls.
They called for creating public pressure on all concerned to go for the viable infrastructure building to resolve what they termed unbearable traffic jams that cost the economy dearly besides upsetting normal life and appointments.
The cry for right decisions and actions came from transport experts, university teachers and planners at a roundtable in the city, with main focus towards immediate building up of efficient bus and pedestrian bays and byways.
Coming down heavily on "metro-rail-like far-distance options" taken so far by policymakers to ease traffic congestion, they contended majority decisions and actions failed to bring any change in the city snarls due to a high degree of 'politicisation'.
Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) and Road Safety Foundation jointly organised the roundtable titled 'Dhaka city traffic gridlock: Economic and health impact' to highlight adverse impacts of traffic congestion on the economy and civic life.
ARI Director Dr Moazzem Hossain presented the keynote focusing the issues needed to be addressed immediately to ease the nagging traffic snarls.
Orthopaedic surgeon Professor Dr Muhammad Siraj-ul Islam, urban planner Professor Dr Sarwar Jahan, Professor MM Akash, Dr Farah Diba of Clinical Psychology Department of Dhaka University and Director of Fire Service and Civil Defence AKM Shakil Newaj talked about different kinds of impacts on the city life.
Chairman of Road Safety Foundation and Professor of Social Science of Dhaka University Dr AI Mahbub Uddin Ahmed presided over the meeting.
Dr Moazzem cited different study findings of the past and said, "Though 80 per cent of 30 million trips are generated through bus and non-motorised vehicles, the government was yet to do anything to introduce an efficient bus system."
He noted that efficient bus service presupposes free footpaths and smooth pedestrian movement.
The engineering and technology professor criticised "uncontrolled politicisation" in the transport sector which he said is playing with the hawkers and transport operators.
He urged creating public-pressure group to work so that all actions and programmes are taken properly.
Dr Moazzem offered ARI-formulated traffic-management alternatives like introducing a reliable hawker-eviction programme, restricted zones for both pedestrians and vehicles in some areas, by-lanes, localised rickshaws and long-term low-cost services as well as making efforts to ensure maximum utilisation of city streets by the city corporations.
The ARI Director said, "All these efforts can be implemented immediately with true political will."
To make it happen, the Institute recommended the authorities concerned should appoint enough technical experts and ensure their empowerment in the government's related departments, including Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA).
Prof MM Akash said despite the fact that people lose working hours worth millions of taka, political economy plays main role in resolving the problem.
He said multifarious new classes and groups influence the transport sector, which needs to be addressed and handled to find solution to the city's traffic problem.
The DU professor of Economics reiterated decentralisation as the capital, Dhaka, receives ever-growing population than other cities do.
Dr Sarwar Jahan exposed faulty planning of infrastructures in the city and said construction of unplanned flyovers and roads continued investing millions of taka despite opposition.
He said due to the unplanned development, revised strategic transport plan proposes now trillion-taka investment plan.
The professor of Urban Planning Department of BUET urged an early end to Dhaka city's problems with its own characteristics and on density basis.
Dr Siraj-Ul-Islam contended that accidents in the city cannot be considered accident-it is now created, and can be stopped.
He lamented that transport planning still lacks introducing facilities for emergency services.
Dr Farah Diba focused on psychological impacts of the stupendous traffic mess. She said owing to traffic problem, the city-dwellers have become indifferent and face multi-physical and psychological health consequences.
"Even impacts of mental health on drivers and helpers are now visible as they now openly talk of running over pedestrians. Sometimes they do so…for driving more than the hours permitted," she told the meet.
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