The traffic congestion in Dhaka is wasting around 3.2 million working hours daily, due to the current average driving speed of hardly seven kilometres an hour, costing the economy billions of dollars, according to a World Bank report.
If the current traffic jams in the mega city continue, the pace may gradually decline to four kilometres per hour or even slower than walking speed, the report feared. The hourly traffic speed was 21 kilometres even a decade ago.
The report titled “Toward Great Dhaka: A New Urban Development Paradigm Eastward,” also cites unplanned urbanisation and a haphazard traffic system as responsible factors for the city’s nightmare traffic condition. The report was unveiled at a programme at a Dhaka hotel on Thursday.
WB Country Director (Bangladesh) Qimiao Fan chaired the report launching ceremony. Martin Rama, chief WB economist for South Asia, Professor Anthony Venables of Oxford University, and Hossain Zillur Rahman, chairman, Power and Participation Research Centre, were the primary discussants of the report.
Aiming to mitigate the ever-growing traffic crisis in the capital city, the government took a number of measures, but to no avail.. The situation turns worse during the monsoon rains, adding to the woes of commuters.
Nearly one-third of city canals dysfunctional
Flooding and waterlogging are recurrent, with monsoon rains and overflowing rivers adjoining the city, leaving Dhaka inundated very often, says the report. The report largely blames sand-filling and illegal occupation of most canals in Dhaka for the state.
Only 25 out of 43 canals in the city are currently functional, the rest are not being used optimally or properly, seriously hampering water drainage capacity.
Development plan for East Dhaka
The report lays out a strategic vision for the city to unlock its development potential. Buoyed by the success of Pudong, Shanghai, the report recommends three critical interventions to develop East Dhaka: building the eastern embankment along the Balu River to mitigate flooding; developing transport links and public transit to ease congestion; and creating a world-class business district with sound policies to attract firms and residents eastward.
If adopted, the recommendations are expected to help average income per capita in Dhaka reach $9,200 by 2035 compared to less than $8,000 on current trends.
The three interventions proposed in the report could enable Dhaka to comfortably host an extra 5 million inhabitants, and to create 1.8 million additional jobs, compared to today’s chaos of business as usual.
The interventions would cost about $15 billion, but they could lead to $53 billion in increased economic activity per year by 2035. They would also result in an improved quality of life for Dhaka’s inhabitants, and alleviate many of the challenges the city currently faces.