Australia is more than two times larger than India. India is about 20 times larger than Bangladesh. Yet Australia has only a population of 21 million, while our Dhaka has a population of about 15 million. Major Australian Cities Melbourne, Sydney are at least 8 times larger than Dhaka.
To give you some idea about how densely populated is Dhaka let me provide the population of Australian states and capital cities:
|States/Territory||Population (Million)||Capital City||Population|
|New South Wales||6.55||Sydney||4.12|
|Australian Capital Territory||0.32||Canberra||0.32|
Can you imagine our Dhaka has more population than three major Australian states NSW, Victoria, Queensland put together? All Australian cities are well planned; all roads and highways are well laid out with plenty of fly overs, elevated expressways. Still sometimes in major cities there are grid locks in traffic. If you compare that with Dhaka you will see that approx. 14 million people living in city which is less than 1/8th of Sydney and about 1/6th of Melbourne. The City does not even have 6% navigable roads.
Dhaka city has grown in unplanned manner. The Central Secretariat, Two main Universities, BDR Headquarter, Army Head Quarter etc. are situated at the heart of city centre. Hundreds of schools and colleges are situated at different crowded places of the city. Most of the banks, insurance and state owned enterprises have their head quarter in Dhaka. Central train station is also inside the city and the main intercity train level crossings penetrate the city roads. There are not much parking facilities and the traffic management is extremely poor. What one can imagine in this situation? City grinds to crawl at snails pace on all working days. Dhakaites loose 2-3 hours on the average everyday on the road and some predict even more.
During my last Dhaka visit in June 2009 it usually took 2 + 2 = 4 hours everyday to travel between my Uttara Residence and my friend’s office in Kakrail. People talk about adherents of different government, people are told tales about sky roads, sky rails, and underground metro, elevated express highway. But nothing happened over the last three terms of democratic government.
The present government recently introduced staggered timing for government offices, other offices and educational institutions and the day light saving still persists. But without going to heart of the problem this action will soon prove futile. Half an hour or one hour staggering of office timing will bring no difference at all.
Let us analyse what causes traffic congestion in Dhaka.
Secretariat at the heart of the City.
BDR Head Quarter, Police Head Quarter and Army Headquarter at the congested area of the city.
Dhaka University, Engineering University, Dhaka Medical College and several colleges and schools are either at the heart of the city or are in congested Residential areas.
RMG factories, leather Industries and some other industries in residential areas cause congestions.
Kamlapoor Railway Station in the city, several intercity trains move during the day and at level crossings create traffic congestions
Not enough parking facilities, not enough public transports, too many private transports.
Till the following actions are taken no one can expect any feasible solution of traffic congestions.
Relocate the secretariat gradually outside Dhaka to adjacent districts -Narayanganj, Gazipoor, Keraniganj and Shavar. E-Governance can very well link them and PM and Ministers can handle the affairs through e-governance system.
Relocate BDR HQ to Shavar, AHQ to Gazipoor and Police Headquarter to Mirpur.
Spread Dhaka University to another Campus in Tangail.
Relocate Tanneries to new location. Take out RMGs to outside Dhaka.
Relocate Jatrabari Bus Terminal on the other side of Sitalakhya River and relocate Mahakhali Bus Terminal to Ashulia.
Develop Airport Rail Station as the terminal for all intercity trains moving during the day.
If these can be done at least 50 % of Dhaka population will move out of city centre and in 5 years city will become habitable again.
Apart from above some other actions must also be taken.
Construct elevated highway from Gazipoor to Naryanganj, Savar to Keraniganj.
Build city circular road, city circular water ways.
Dredge all rivers around Dhaka, recover all canals, encourage people to use river vessels for moving from place to place.
Recycled water using reveres osmosis process and treated surface water must be used for Dhakaites replacing subs surface water use.
Underground Railway, mono rail will not be feasible in Dhaka.
The major political parties must have conscious on all above for the greater national interest. We have lost enough time in arguments. There is hardly any time left. All efforts must be made to create incentives to for moving people out of Dhaka. In the current scenario it is almost impossible to provide reliable utility supply – Electricity, gas and water to the Dhakaites.
Dhaka will not remain habitable unless sensible political elements, civil society immediately strike meeting of minds to save Dhaka to potential disaster.
Kh. A. Saleque (Saleque Sufi) is the ex-Director ( Operation) GTCL and writes from Australia.
[Read all posts by Kh. A. Saleque]