Dhaka, the city of our lives, is uninhabitable, the Economist Intelligence Unit of the United Kingdom announced in 2018. 'Pollution' and 'traffic congestion' are some of the reasons for being uninhabitable. Pollution and traffic congestion are interrelated. Long traffic jams on the roads play a major role in increasing air pollution. Although Dhaka is included in the megacity, there is no other megacity like Dhaka with so much traffic congestion.
In this crowded city, we can no longer wake up with the sound of singing bird; instead, nowadays we have to wake up with the sound of noisy car engines and horns. There was a time when Dhaka was known as the city of Mosque, but in present days scholars call it a city of private cars and traffic jams. According to the "World Traffic Index-2019" published by the research institute "Nambio", Dhaka ranks 1st in terms of traffic congestion. In 2018, its position was 2nd. Only 3 years ago, Dhaka was in 3rd place. The increase in the use of private vehicles is being blamed as the main cause of traffic congestion.
To address this global pollution and traffic congestion, "World Car Free Day" is celebrated every year on 22nd September with various initiatives. The purposes of celebrating this day is to bring the city to the forefront of traffic congestion, to improve the public transport system, to clear the roads one day a week or a month, to renovate roads and to create spaces for sports or recreation, to give people some relief from mechanics, etc. There is also an event organized in front of Manik Mia Avenue on the first Saturday of every month called Private Car Free Day in an effort of various organizations.
Vienna, the capital of Austria, is ranked No. 1 on the list of the least congested cities in the world, according to a report by Namibio. It is followed by Sweden (Gothenburg), Switzerland (Brussels), and two Romanian cities, Brasov and Timisoara. Private cars will be phased out in 13 more cities around the world in phases. Some of these countries are Norway, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Belgium.
In the context of our country, where public transport could be the ideal means of transportation for citizens, now replace with private vehicles. The main reason why people are being encouraged to use private cars day by day is due to various limitations of public transport. Firstly, the inadequacy of public transport, the situation is such that the number of transports on any route from the main public meeting place is high and on some routes it is comparatively less. For example, the number of vehicles from Farmgate to Mirpur is more than other routes. At the same time lack of ticketing system, extra fare collection, insecurity of women, lack of comfort in transportation etc. Keeping pace with the times, people use private cars to prioritize their choices and show social dominance.
According to a research report published by Democracy International (DI), a US-based organization, on September 22, 2016, 6 percent of the people in Dhaka city occupy 76 percent of the roads using private cars. 6 to 8 percent of the roads are occupied by public transport and the rest of the roads are occupied by parking and illegal occupants. The use of private cars is causing various problems. Comparing private vehicles with public transport in many ways, it is seen that private cars occupy more roads with less efficiency.
A field survey conducted by the Department of Environmental Sciences, Stamford University, Bangladesh, shows that a human hauler occupies the same amount of space on a road as a private car. Private cars can carry a maximum of 4 people, while human haulers can carry up to 15 people. On the other hand, a public transport with a capacity of 36 to 40 passengers can take place in a space occupied by 3 private vehicles with 12 persons. In some cases, a wealthy family has at least two or more cars, resulting in an average of 2 cars on the road for only 2 to 4 people, which can be easily replaced by 12 bicycles.
Demand for biofuels is increasing due to increasing use of private cars, air pollution is increasing. According to BUET's Accident Research Institute (ARI) and Road Safety Foundation's roundtable discussion on 'Dhaka Metropolitan Traffic Jams: Financial and Health Problems', 5 million working hours are being wasted every day due to long traffic jams, costing Tk. 36,000 crore a year. The speed of the vehicle has come down to about five kilometers per hour like the walking speed due to traffic congestion.
On the other hand, new vehicles are being added but the condition and numbers of roads are the same as before. Most of the plans or recommendations that are being adopted to overcome the current situation are short term. The integrated plan is not significantly visible. The quality of passenger service has plummeted due to the failure to effectively build a passenger-friendly public transport system across the country. Thus increases accidents. In addition, if the engine of the vehicle is running with idling in a traffic jam, in addition to normal smoke, harmful Unburned Hydrocarbon is emitted, in addition, fuel oil or gas is wasted.
During the COVID-19 or Corona pandemic period, traffic was restricted and controlled across the country, including the capital Dhaka, from the last week of March to April. Corona's presence was no longer understood by the presence of vehicles on the road since June. Unbearable traffic jams are going to be noticed again in August-September like other times. In the second week of September, Dhaka has risen again to number one in the World Traffic Convention Index.
But Corona has given us a lesson on how the capital became impassable and uninhabitable due to traffic mismanagement. And if there is no countless car and traffic jam, it is possible to move from one place to another in Dhaka easily. The destination can be reached in the shortest time. No air and noise pollution could be seen. Future communication plans can be undertaken by applying this coroner's lesson.
To make Dhaka city livable again, emphasis should be placed on adopting a plan that can accommodate more passengers in a smaller space. In that case it is necessary to increase the bus facility. Public bus, walking and cycling facilities are required to discourage private car. Due to lack facilities, many people in Dhaka are not finding alternatives to private cars. It is possible to reduce the dependence on private cars by introducing improved bus service. Private cars can be arranged according to the odd number one day and the odd number plate on the other day. In that case it will be much easier to control traffic.
Professor Dr. Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder, Dean, Faculty of Science, Chairman, Department of Environmental Science, Stamford University Bangladesh, Founder and Director, Center for Atmospheric Pollution Studies (CAPS) & Joint Secretary, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org