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No respite from traffic jam

By UNB, DHAKA
02nd-Feb-2014       
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The spectre of traffic congestion in the capital is only expected to deteriorate further in the days ahead,
compounding the daily suffering faced by commuters in one of the most densely-populated megacities of the world. "I have to spend about two hours every day travelling to and from my Paltan office," said Jannatul Ferdous, a resident of Natunbazar.  "When there is no traffic, the journey usually takes 30 minutes."
A number of passengers and commuters shared similar laments with UNB over the problems they are facing on a daily basis due to traffic jam, starting with the loss of valuable time. Clearly, the public transport crisis only serves to make matters worse for them.
Jannatul Ferdous spoke of how she often has to wait for long periods on her way to office due to lack of public transport on the city's thoroughfares, adding that "Even if I can catch any passenger vehicle luckily, there's almost no room left, even for standing."
Demanding immediate steps by the government to resolve the nagging traffic jam in the city, the irritated commuter said, "If something is not done soon, commuting will become a worse experience in a few years."
That "something" may include increasing the number of public transports in the city, she said.
Echoing Jannatul Ferdous, urban planner Prof Nazrul Islam said, "The traffic congestion problem will worsen in the city in a few years, due to its growing population."
Against this background, Communications Minister Obaidul Quader of the new government on Wednesday told reporters that his primary task will be to free the choking capital Dhaka from the grip of traffic jam.
As part of the first steps towards realizing this, the minister pledged stern steps to evict illegally occupied roadside establishments and to stop plying of unauthorized vehicles in the city. The minister also gave assurances for starting construction works of two mega projects-Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) that can significantly reduce traffic congestion in the city.
Communications Ministry officials, however, did not share their minister's optimism over the timing of the two projects. Sources at the ministry said although consultants have been appointed for the MRT project, the tender process for work on the main structure has not even started.
Besides, the construction of the Tk 22,000 crore MRT stretching from the capital's Uttara to Motijheel is a very long-term project, with 130 months (12 years) set aside in the court system for it.
The same sources also said consultants are yet to be appointed for the 20-kilometre BRT project, which will stretch from Shahjalal International Airport in the capital to Joydevpur, Gazipur. Once the project is completed, Gazipur people will have dedicated road to drive straight to the airport. The far less complicated BRT project, provided all goes well, could be completed as early as 2016.
Dr Nazrul Islam suggested swift implementation of MRT and BRT, reinforcement of traffic regulation system in the city and protection of its walkways from occupation. "In a word, there has to be an improvement in the overall management of the city's communication sector."

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