Dhaka,  Friday
19 April 2024

‘Traffic woes: Old Dhaka losing charm as among country’s largest trade hubs’ 

Staff Reporter

Published: 08:48, 3 April 2024

‘Traffic woes: Old Dhaka losing charm as among country’s largest trade hubs’ 

Photo : Collected

Due to unbearable traffic congestion, the historic Old Dhaka is gradually losing its charm of being one of the largest economic hubs in the country, said Ashraf Ahmed, president of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DCCI) on Tuesday. 

He said this at a roundtable titled “Effect of traffic congestion over businesses of Old Dhaka and identify the way forward” and organised by DCCI at its auditorium.

Ashraf said Old Dhaka alone probably contributes about 20 per cent to the GDP, adding it is one of the largest trading hubs in the country and transactions amounting to thousands of crores of taka take place in this part of the city. 

“But due to unbearable traffic jams, many businesses are now trying to shift to other places. If this trend continues, one day, this part of the city will lose its long heritage as the economic heart of the country,” he said. 

He also said due to traffic congestion, working hours worth about Tk 140 crore are being lost daily. Moreover, unplanned urbanisation and expansion create traffic congestion that result in about 2.9 per cent GDP loss. 

Illegal shops on footpaths, narrow roads, lack of traffic system, illegal rickshaws and vans, and illegal hawkers are a few of the major problems related to traffic jams in Old Dhaka, Ashraf said.  

He suggested a one-way traffic system to ease the situation. He also recommended AI-based traffic signalling, administrative decentralisation, long-term urban development strategy, expansion of metro rail in Old Dhaka, developing an integrated circular river route, loading and unloading of goods after 9pm, and eviction of illegal hawkers from footpaths.

Barrister Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, mayor of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), said, “Unplanned urbanisation and unabated expansion are created by us, and we all are responsible for this. The urban plan should be done by the city corporation.” 

He also pointed out that DSCC has nearly doubled its revenue from around Tk 512 crore to over Tk 1,031 crore without increasing taxes just by improving governance. DSCC has successfully tackled the solid waste problem and is now focusing on waterlogging, he said.  

Taposh further said a new central business hub will be built at Keraniganj as it is situated beside the Buriganga River. He requested shop owners not to allow any hawkers to sit in front of their shops anymore and be strict against them. 

Soon, eco-friendly and IoT-based transportation systems will be implemented in Dhaka, the mayor said. He said it is not an easy task to evict hawkers all the time but the DSCC recently identified eight spots as yellow and green zones where hawkers can do their business freely. 

“But they cannot establish any makeshift shop in the red zones identified by the DSCC.”  

Mizanur Rahman, CEO of DSCC, said illegal trading on footpaths is one of the major reasons behind traffic jams in Old Dhaka. He said DSCC regularly conducts eviction drives against illegal hawkers. 

He also said the lost canals are being revived from land grabbers, which will help reduce waterlogging in the city. “To ease traffic congestion, the feasibility of 60 points so far has been completed to implement an AI-based traffic signalling system.” 

Neelima Akter, Executive Director (Additional Secretary) of Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority, said, “We need to formulate an action plan or specialised strategic solution for the future.”

She also urged for better coordination among different government agencies.