Experts question spending money on flyovers as traffic snarls continue in Dhaka
online desk | 11 November 2017 | 10:34 am
Seven flyovers have been built to ease traffic congestions in Dhaka City in over a decade, but they have not been as effective as expected; now experts have questioned the objective of constructing these structures by spending millions.
They say the government is constructing flyovers one after another because it is ‘eyeing visible development by spending money instead of real development’.
According to them, the recommendations in the Strategic Transport Plan or STP, enacted in 2005 to make commuting comfortable in the capital, are being implemented, but in the opposite direction.
Professor Dr Shamsul Hoque, a transportation consultant and road safety expert, has told bdnews24.com the policymakers “knew that flyovers would not be that effective”.
Hoque, who teaches civil engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, said, “Flyover was at the bottom of the list in STP made around a decade ago. The issues that should be prioritised there were not emphasised.”
Dhaka South Mayor Sayeed Khokon also admitted lack of coordination in the development work.
Road Transport and Highways Secretary Md Nazrul Islam, however, said everything was done following the plan.
Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority or DTCA made the STP in 2005 with an aim to build a modern, planned and coordinated transport system in and around Dhaka City within 2015.
The DTCA revised the plan in 2015 and extended the time of implementation by 20 years to 2035.
All the flyovers planned in the 2005 STP have been built. Those include President Zillur Rahman Flyover at Kuril, Banani Flyover, Mayor Mohammad Hanif Flyover at Jatrabarhi, the flyover linking Bijoy Sarani and Tejgaon, and Moghbazar-Mouchak Flyover.
Three Bus Rapid Transport or BRT projects and three Mass Transport Rapid or MRT projects were also recommended in the STP to link the north and south ends of the city.
Steps were not taken to implement the rapid transport projects at the beginning. Only the work for the airport-Gazipur BRT has started while the airport-Sayedabad BRT has been extended from Kapasia to Narayanganj.The revised STP has five MRP projects, and the work for one of those, from Sayedabad to Ashulia, has begun.
It also includes three ring roads, eight radial streets, six expressways, and 21 transportation hubs.
It emphasises development of a circular waterway surrounding the city, traffic management, development of road safety management and bus transport system.
It became clear that the flyovers are not helping ease the traffic gridlicks after the opening of the last portion of Moghbazar-Mouchak Flyover in the heart of the city.
Commuters say the traffic congestions have only changed places but the time to reach destinations has remained same.
Besides that flyover, traffic snarls are a regular phenomenon on Bijoy Sarani-Tejgaon Flyover opened in 2010 and the two ends of Mayor Hanif Flyover opened in 2013.
Commuters also experience traffic jams on the two ends of the first flyover of the country at Mohakhali. The flyover in Khilgaon is not free of traffic snarls either.
Prof Hoque told that “We haven’t made our city friendly to pedestrians and public transports. We don’t believe in any system. We don’t want any development without cost. We prefer development at a huge spending.”
He explained that smaller vehicles and long-route buses generally use the flyovers. “Huge amounts are spent on developing transport for a small number of people,” he said about the flyovers.
The expert said easing pedestrians’ sufferings and bringing public transport under a system should be the top priority to achieve a modern transport system.
“The pedestrians would be able to make short trips if we can do this. And speedy transports for long-route passengers should be there so that many can travel by one means,” he said.
‘Flyovers not a solution’
Architect Iqbal Habib, who was involved in area development building project in Hatirjheel, thinks that the flyovers cannot resolve Dhaka’s traffic jam issue.
Referring to a government survey, he said the city records an average of 35 million passenger trips daily and 47 percent of those are between 1.5 and 2 kilometres long.
Flyovers are never suitable for a city with such passenger trips, according to Iqbal.
A passenger trip is the number of passengers who board public transports.
“The government itself made the STP and revised it. It is clearly stated there that flyovers are not a solution to traffic jams.
“The solutions are also mentioned there. The solution is in a coordinated system of Bus Rapid Transit, Mass Rapid Transit, railway and waterway commuting system,” he said.
According to him, projects friendly to pedestrians and public transports were emphasised in all the surveys, but the opposite has happened in reality.
“Because projects with big budget get priority to us for their visibility,” Habib said.
The architect said flyovers serve mainly private cars, used by only 8 percent residents of the capital.
What the authorities say
Asked why flyovers were built first despite being at the bottom of the priority list, former DTCA executive director SM Saleh Uddin said Dhaka lacks space for vehicles to ply on and there was no other alternative than building the flyovers to increase space for the vehicles.
“We had only one option — building roads on roads,” he said.
He admitted the flyovers are of no use due to problems in the ends of those structures.
“The artery roads, pocket roads and side roads that connect with the main road should have been developed first. Flyovers will be of no use without developing these roads. And we already see this problem in some of the flyovers in Dhaka,” he said.
DTCA’s incumbent Executive Director Syed Ahmed also agrees that flyovers are not a permanent solution to traffic jams.
He says that’s why such projects were discouraged and mass transport projects were encouraged in the revised STP.
“Now the government is prioritising MRT and BRT. Some work has begun. Others will start gradually,” he said.
Road Transport Secretary Nazrul, however, claimed the projects in the STP are continuing as per order of priority.
“BRT, MRT are not contradictory with flyovers. They don’ t overlap. The BRT and MRT are being implemented within the workplan,” he said.
He said it took time to start the MRT and BRT because such projects need time. “But those will be completed within the given time,” he added.
Dhaka South Mayor Khokon has blamed the lack of coordination among development projects in the capital’s transport sector.
“Now the transport system in Dhaka is going through anarchy. Other agencies don’t even know when another agency takes an initiative,” he said.
“This is a mess. We couldn’t bring the transport system under a proper management.”
He thinks all the government agencies related to the capital’s transport system should be brought under one umbrella to solve the problems.