Traffic jams in Bangladesh, especially in Dhaka, have been causing great suffering for quite a long time, but now it has taken on a terrible shape. According to the World Traffic Index 2022, Dhaka ranks 9th in the traffic index among 246 countries in the world. However, cities like Los Angeles in the USA, Delhi, and Kolkata in India, and Sharjah in the UAE are at the top of the list. But in a developing country like Bangladesh, excessive traffic jams are a matter of concern. Due to this traffic jam, around 19 million working hours are being lost daily in Bangladesh which adversely affects the country’s economy. 6 to 10 percent of the country’s GDP is lost every year due to traffic jams. Besides, along with the suffering of the people of the country due to excess traffic, their mental and physical health is also being damaged. On the other hand, as traffic jams are increasing day by day, the country’s environmental pollution is also rising which is also a matter of concern.
Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, holds nearly half of Bangladesh’s total employment and one-fifth of the country’s GDP. From 1995 to 2005, while Dhaka’s population grew by 50 percent, traffic jams increased by 134 percent. According to the latest information, more than one crore of people live in Dhaka. The population of this city is constantly increasing as jobs, advanced educational institutions, medical, and all kinds of government activities are centered in Dhaka. And with this increased population, traffic congestion in Dhaka is also increasing. According to World Bank program leader and Sr. transport specialist Rajesh Rohatgi, the average traffic speed in Dhaka has dropped from 21 km per hour to less than 7 km per hour in the last ten years. According to a 2020 report by The Financial Express, the average speed of vehicles on Dhaka roads is likely to drop to four kilometers per hour by 2023. Apart from Dhaka, traffic jams are often heard in various cities of the country, including Chittagong, the country’s commercial capital. Besides, it is known from multiple media sources that there are often long traffic jams on various country highways. Also, every year during Eid and Puja holidays, there are often reports of extra traffic jams on highways.
One of the reasons behind such terrible traffic jams in Bangladesh is the lack of an adequate road system. Considering only the capital city of Dhaka, according to a study by the Bangladesh Institute of Planners, Dhaka has only 7 percent of the 25 percent of roads required for vehicular movement. Meanwhile, the amount of road is insufficient compared to the requirement, and more than five times the carrying capacity of vehicles are plying on that road. According to BRTA data, Dhaka alone has more than 19 lakh out of the 55 lakh registered vehicles in Bangladesh. In addition, a rise in purchasing power and availability has also resulted in an increase in the number of private cars. Even in 2010, the number of personal vehicles in Bangladesh was slightly more than one and a half lakh (160170). Now, it has exceeded 3 lakh (324306), which is one of the reasons for increased traffic in different cities of the country, including Dhaka.
In addition, depending on the organization, an employee in Dhaka works between 8 and 10 hours daily. Moreover, getting to and from work in Dhaka takes 2–5 hours because of the traffic. That is, 12 to 16 hours, or almost two-thirds of the day, are lost even if a person’s daily life is cut short by going to and from work. A report from The Financial Express says that every day in the country, 3.2 million work hours are lost.
Aside from the fact that Dhaka needs a better road system. Infrastructure projects like Metrorail to various flyovers and expressways that are mostly being built on or next to the main road in Dhaka are also causing a lot of traffic. This cuts down on the amount of road space, which is another reason for traffic jams. Aside from this, there are also traffic jams because there aren’t enough parking spots and transportation infrastructure. People park their cars everywhere, and public transportation doesn’t pick up and drop off passengers correctly. Apart from this, manual traffic management system, non-maintenance of separate lanes for buses-trucks-private cars and three-wheelers, lack of adequate footpaths, waterlogging of main roads during heavy rains and lack of proper road crossings are some of the significant causes of excess traffic jams in the country. People in the country are wasting their time and physical and mental health because of traffic jams. The environment is also getting worse because of all the traffic.
Impact of Traffic Jam
According to Dhaka Tribune, because of traffic jams, Bangladesh is losing 6 to 10 percent of GDP, and among this, 3(2.9 %) percent is happening because of Dhaka traffic jams only. According to BUET’s 2028 Accident Research Institute (ARI), around 5 million working hours were wasted due to traffic jams in Dhaka, which cost the country’s economy $4.35 billion annually, rising to $6.5 billion in 2020. According to another study by BRAC Institute of Government and Development, by calculating the extra operating cost of human time and vehicles, the annual loss of Bangladesh due to traffic jams in 2018 was 11.4 billion dollars. According to ARI’s study, in 2020, loss of working hours, excess fuel consumption, accidents during peak hours, and environmental impact totaled a loss of 153 crore BDT per day to Bangladesh, which is about Tk 56000 crore BDT annually, whereas traffic congestion alone results in 19 million working hours lost every day worth Tk 137 crore. Due to traffic jams, it takes more time for people to travel from one place to another, so it takes more time than necessary to complete various tasks. This time could have been spent doing something else that would have increased their overall productivity if it hadn’t been wasted in traffic.
Besides, stucking in a jam for a long time reduces the lifetime of these parts and also increases the operating cost of the vehicle and the accelerator. On the other hand, only because the vehicle engine is not switched during traffic jams, about 40 percent of the fuel is being spent per day which has an economic value of about Tk 4.2 crore. Moreover, ride-sharing has become a very popular service due to the bad condition of the roads in Bangladesh and traffic congestion in Dhaka city. Initially, this eases the journey for people, but as the traffic situation worsens, the fares of ride-sharing platforms increase at different stages, and the passengers’ costs increase as well. Adverse effects of traffic jams can be observed in freight transport as well as passenger vehicles. As a result of jams, goods are transported more slowly than usual, disrupting everything from domestic trade to export-import. Besides, due to traffic congestion, the cost of transporting goods also increases based on factors like time and fuel. Due to the traffic congestion in Dhaka and the major cities of the country, various delivery-based services, courier services, and e-commerce are also suffering. It is becoming increasingly difficult for these organizations to provide better services at an affordable price because of traffic congestion, which makes it more difficult for them to provide proper service to their customers. Therefore, these organizations are charging higher prices in order to provide proper service.
The economy of Bangladesh is adversely affected by traffic jams, but so is the environment and people’s health. It becomes very difficult to reach the office, school-college, university, and office on time during office hours. People are getting mentally and physically stressed due to sitting in a jam for a long time. Furthermore, experts report that long-term sitting in jams can lead to headaches, excessive sweating, dehydration, hearing issues, respiratory issues, dust allergies, and various eye issues.
Again, the amount of hassle one has to deal with to get to the office through the traffic jam has a huge impact on a person’s daily productivity and efficiency. Apart from passengers, car drivers also suffer from various accidents due to the stress of sitting at the steering wheel for a long time. According to a source from The Financial Express, 40 percent of daily road accidents occur during peak hours, with an economic value of 1.6 crore BDT. Apart from this, it is known through the media at various times that, due to excessive traffic, patients are dying without treatment and without being able to reach the hospital at the right time.
Since almost all vehicles in Bangladesh still run on fossil fuels, a lot of carbon is emitted, resulting in a lot of air pollution in the environment. The majority of vehicles keep their engines running even at standstill, and black smoke continues to be emitted from the cars. Besides, the cars keep honking their horn constantly even in the jam which is causing noise pollution in the environment. The economic value of the air pollution caused by this jam and the death of people suffering from various diseases is 8 crore 70 lakh BDT per day. Besides, according to the Air Quality Index (AQI) in 2021, Bangladesh was at the top of the world among 118 countries. In addition, the country’s capital Dhaka was in an unhealthy condition with a score of 141, which is a scary thing for the country.