Traffic Jam in Dhaka City

Traffic Jam in Dhaka City

Over the last few years the transportation problem of Dhaka City has visibly been deteriorating steadily. Citizens constantly complain about the unbearable twin problems of traffic jam and air pollution. Democracy watch decided to address this problem through an opinion poll covering around eight hundred households randomly selected from several purposively selected neighbourhoods of the city, representatives of middle and lower income areas.

The questions asked focused mainly on three issues:

(a) the nature of the problem as perceived by the surveyed residents,

(b) their understanding about the causes of these problems and

(c) their recommendations on solutions to these perceived problems.

Some preliminary results from this survey were presented at a workshop, which was   participated by persons associated with the formulation and implementation of traffic policies, rules and programmes .This Draft Final Report benefits from valuable discussion and comments received at the workshop. The methodology of this survey is explained below in brief. It is easy to see that the study extended beyond a standard opinion poll and entered the arena of investigative research in seeking some explanations to perceptions as well as behaviour.

The findings are presented mainly in the form of self-explanatory tables with some introductory highlights and conclusions. A further extension of the survey is currently being completed to cover the very poor and the rich categories of residents as was recommended by several participants at the workshop mentioned earlier. Reasons behind traffic jam

(a) City lay-out (master plan) and over-population: The causes of traffic congestion in Dhaka city are multifarious. Starting from the city itself, it is observed that the skeleton, structure and lay-out of Dhaka City are not well-planned and well-directed.

Traffic Congestion In Dhaka City

In today’s world, the success of a city depends on its economy, which in turn is dependant on the infrastructure, among other things. The importance of the infrastructure can be particularly felt by the citizens of Dhaka in its traffic system, as its congestion reminds us of how important it is to have a good transport system.

• We the citizens of Dhaka are suffering because our traffic system is failing us, as it is resulting in less efficiency in various fields, such as business.

• Due to traffic congestion, our valuable times and energy are being wasted.

• The problem of traffic congestion and uncontrolled vehicle emission make life miserable in Dhaka city causing threat to health.

• Everyday work-hours are unnecessarily wasted due to traffic jam. It has a great economic impact on production and thus on our economy.

• Traffic congestions intensify sufferings of commuters keeping people motionless as well as creating suffocating condition in the streets.

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reasons of Traffic Congestion are mentioned below:

1. The minimum road requirement is 25% for a standard city, whereas Dhaka has only 7.5% road of its total area which is creating huge traffic. Moreover, if we look at the map of Dhaka city, the road connection of north and south is comparatively better than east and west which is causing people to take a longer route to travel.

2. The district truck and bus travel through heart of the capital city due to no bypass road. For example, a person who lives in Chittagong must enter Dhaka to reach Kushtia.

3. The Export Processing Zone (EPZ) which is established near Dhaka forces the vehicles to move from Savar to Dhaka to Chittagong. Our EPZ is oriented to bulk products like garments and it must be located near sea port.

4. Every day thousand of people are entering the city as our economic activity and administration like education, health sector are all Dhaka centered. There is no attempt for decentralization.

5. Bangladesh population growth is…

Thousands of pedestrians in Dhaka jaywalk every day, particularly during rush hours, risking their lives and the lives of motorists and sometimes with fatal consequences.

Jaywalking has reached such an alarming state that fatalities are recorded almost every day.

Pedestrians are often seen crossing the streets at places they are not supposed to while talking to each other or on mobile phones oblivious to things around them. Some seem to be unaware of the doctrine “Don’t run across the road”.

Jaywalking is so widespread that it has become almost a norm and motorists are often blamed for mishaps despite the fact that the pedestrian he or she hit was jaywalking.

The fast Airport Road from Uttara to Mohakhali, Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue, Shaheed Tajuddin Sarani (Tejgaon), and Mirpur Road are the ones where most fatal accidents to pedestrians happen.

Largely, people’s tendency to flout traffic rules and lack of adequate facilities for pedestrians, illegal occupation of pavements by parked cars, shops, vendors and construction materials contribute to pedestrians use of the streets, said traffic experts.

A journalist died at Bangla Motor intersection while crossing Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue in 2005.
Dhaka University student Shammee Akhter Happy was run over by a speeding bus while crossing the Shahbagh intersection in 2005.

Sultana Akhtar Sumi, a 20-year student of Narayanganj Art College, died on April 3, 2009, as she stepped on a livewire and fell from the under-construction footbridge near Shishu Park.
According to Accident Research Institute at Buet, 380 deaths occur on the streets of Dhaka every year, and 75 percent are pedestrians.

“Lack of enforcement of law to free pedestrians’ facilities is the foremost reason why people go on jaywalking,” said M Rahmatullah, former director (transport) of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

Absence of useful underpasses, footbridges and pavements force people into jaywalking, said Rahmatullah.

On controlling jaywalking, Selim Md Jahangir, deputy commissioner (traffic west zone) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said it is practically impossible for the police to stop jaywalking because it is a massive problem with almost everyone having a tendency to break traffic laws.

The volume of pedestrians compared to that of vehicles at certain places is many times higher and police have to control traffic, he said.

Dhaka City Corporation, entrusted with providing facilities to pedestrians, has been turning a blind eye to pavements occupied by illegal structures, parked cars, makeshift shops and construction materials.

The DCC has only 390 kilometres of pavements while it has 1,900 kilometres of roads, said DCC officials.

Most of the 52 footbridges in the city remain unused for various reasons. The DCC has four underpasses: one each at Gulistan intersection, Gabtoli bus terminal, Syedabad (Dhalpur) and Karwan Bazar. Apart from the one at Syedabad, the rest are in a poor state.
Nargis Chowdhury, a bank employee at Karwan Bazar and a resident of West Raza Bazar, said, “I never feel encouraged to use the Karwan Bazar underpass as it is often dark and infested with beggars, vagabonds and is very filthy.”
Prof Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, noted civil engineer and transport expert, said a key reason behind jaywalking is that most of the city dwellers are rural people who migrated or are first-generation urban dwellers.

Another reason is utterly unplanned footbridges that the pedestrians do not feel encouraged to use. Footbridges are not in a favourable state for the pedestrians to use. Some of them have been taken over by vendors, beggars and vagabonds, like the one at New Market, or they have human excreta on them.

“They are not user-friendly,” he said. Provision for on-the-surface pedestrian crossings should also be there too.

People’s tendency is not to climb up a footbridge. Moreover, there are no required footbridges across many busy roads like Shaheed Tajuddin Sarani (Tejgaon), Gulshan Avenue, and at intersections like Shahbagh, Nabisco, and Mohakhali.

Existing traffic signals are not pedestrian-friendly at all, according to those who research in the transport sector. Physically disabled, elderly people and children have no alternative but to use the footbridges.

According Prof Nazrul Islam, an urban researcher, around half the city dwellers go to work on foot. Around 90 to 95 percent of the poor and people of the low-income group go to work on foot.

Roughly, one crore people live in the DCC area of around 150 square kilometres.

Prof Jubayer-bin-Alam of Civil Engineering Department of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) in a study on Sustainable Transport for Urban Poor found 12 of 20 lakh garment workers go to work on foot in the central part of the city.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on the communications ministry, earlier admitted that many footbridges have been built without any proper planning.

3.2 Reasons behind traffic jam

            The following reasons are responsible for traffic jam in Dhaka city-

(a) City lay-out (master plan) and over-populationThe causes of traffic congestion in Dhaka city are multifarious. Starting from the city itself, it is observed that the skeleton, structure and lay-out of Dhaka City are not well-planned and well-directed. Dhaka is also a highly populated city. More than one crore people live here and the figure is increasing day by day. This huge population acts as an auto-catalyst of traffic congestion in Dhaka City.

(b) Inadequate and unplanned roads: Dhaka City has very inadequate road networks. For a standard city, where the minimum road requirement is 25%, Dhaka has only 7.5% road of its total area. 30% of this 7.5% road is also occupied by the hawkers, salesman and shopkeepers. A significant portion is occupied by construction materials and waste-containers of the City Corporation. As a result, vehicles do not get sufficient space to move on.

Besides this, in most cases roads are serpentine rather than being straight. This ultimately breeds a number of unnecessary junctions where vehicles automatically slow down. Again, these roads are also not well constructed and regularly repaired. City Corporation, DESA, WASA, BTTB excavate the roads randomly without any integrated and central plan. Lack of proper maintenance causes the vehicle to stop without any prior notice. During the rainy season the situation becomes more critical while the roads go under water due to heavy rain.

(c) Heterogeneous vehicles and inadequate public transport: Dhaka is a city of heterogeneous vehicles. Human puller to latest model automobile, mechanical to non-mechanical, slow to fast-moving, nothing left on the road of Dhaka. It is quite difficult to control all these vehicles on the same road as they have different speed capacity. Besides this, public transport system in Dhaka city is not adequate and properly-routed. Instead of big and spacious buses, presence of large number of mini-buses and private vehicles can only contribute to carry few passengers, but not to reduction of traffic congestion.

(d) Rail crossing: Everyday we are experiencing movement of 74 trains to and from Dhaka. On an average, it takes five minutes to get the clearance for each crossing. Thus in one crossing, everyday the vehicles stop for six hours that is really difficult to offset.

(e) Insufficient parking arrangement and road blockage: Limited parking arrangement is another major cause of excessive traffic in Dhaka City. It has become a regular practice to park the car on road. Even during rush hours, people are seen loading and unloading their vehicles on a busy road. City transports also stop here and there without any valid reason. The three major bus stations, Sayedabad, Gabtoli and Mohakhali do not have sufficient capacity to accommodate all the buses operating from here. A recent addition to road blockage is the long queue of vehicles at CNG stations, which is really difficult to overcome.

 Challenges we face

(a) People are not law abiding: At this stage, I am going to mention a few problems that we always face to address the traffic issues. Most important problem that we realize ‘people are not law abiding, they do not want to follow traffic rules’. Pedestrians show less interest to use footpath, foot-over-bridge or under-pass. Similarly, drivers neither try to maintain the speed nor follow the lane. In most cases, as the punishment is nominal, they tend to breach the rules again and again.

(b) Inadequate logistics: Our traffic management system is not automated and well-equipped. All the junctions are not facilitated with signal lights. Where there are lights, most often those remain out of order. Moreover, uneven flow of vehicles from different directions reduces the effectivity of traffic signals. Besides, we do not have sufficient vehicles to chase a car or bus committed an accident.

(b) Shortage of Manpower: We do not have sufficient and well-trained human resources. Four thousand officers work in two shifts- morning and afternoon. Due to administrative and other involvement, only fifteen hundred officers can be engaged in one shift to control the movement of millions of people and vehicles in Dhaka City. This figure is quite insufficient to manage the existing traffic scenario.

Achievements of Traffic Division

Now I am going to highlight a few of our achievements. We have already made most of the important roads free from non-mechanical vehicles especially rickshaw. You can understand very well, complete withdrawal of rickshaw is a very sensitive and delicate issue. Thousands of people are living their lives by pulling rickshaws, and also this is one of the popular communication means for low and mid-level income group people. However, following the existing rules, and time to time government instructions, we have conducted several operations against illegal rickshaws and filed a number of cases.

We have introduced one way vehicle movement strategy in different areas. This has given much better result. We are taking strict legal action against violators of traffic rules. Last year we filed 4 lakh 88 thousand cases and realized 16 crore 50 lakh taka as fine.  We have arranged several strategic and motivational meetings with government and transport agencies and finally succeeded to control the movement of truck and other long-route vehicles. Now trucks and long-route buses can enter city only after 10 o’clock at night. We have also conducted special operation against model-out vehicles and the number has reduced significantly. Removal of baby taxi is a notable example.


However, it is understandable that resolving the problem of traffic jam in Dhaka city is not possible within a short time.  It needs both short-term and long-term strategies. Short-term strategies may include re-adjusting the school and office time keeping at least one hour difference, re-routing the public transport,  reducing and replacing private transport with convenient and cheaper public transport, fixing different fare for rush and non-rush hour and finally keeping the foot-ways free from hawkers and shopkeepers.

Long-term strategies, on the other hand, may be constructing long flyover from one end to another end of city, introducing underground rail service, undertaking co-ordinated and integrated strategies among different agencies working for city development, replacing rickshaws by assuring proper rehabilitation of rickshaw-pullers, constructing under-pass and foot-over-bridge in different important junctions and finally decentralizing the city itself.

To reduce traffic congestion in Dhaka City, the most vital prerequisite that I feel, is the development of public consciousness. Unless and until we change our perception and develop a mind to abide traffic rules, whatever strategy we take, that will not work properly. I believe, our law-abiding consciousness, good-intention and sincere co-operation can remarkably reduce traffic jam in Dhaka city.

These were all from me. At this stage, I would like to invite questions from you. I believe, your participation will make the session more enjoyable and will definitely enrich my understanding and knowledge. Again, I would like to take the honour to extend my cordial thanks and appreciation to the authority of ‘American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh’ for inviting me here in this scholarly gathering. I do believe, today’s ceremony is a shiny reflection of better friendship and relationship between Bangladesh and US government. I hope and expect, in future, this relationship will bring more fruitful and beneficial results for both the countries.

Traffic Management

Expected questions (Arguments)

1.      Rickshaw -Complexities in withdrawal of rickshaw

(a)    Huge employment

(b)   Vehicles for low income and mid level income group people

(c)    Environment friendly (pollution free)

(d)   No fuel consumption


(a)    Withdrawal of rickshaw phase by phase

(b)   At present may be allowed in pocket roads

 3.  Deployment of Army reduces traffic Jam

(e)    Situation sustains for short time

(f)    Jam shifts from one place to another

(g)   Number of manpower increases

 4.      Cantonment -Traffic Scenario is better

(a)    Limited vehicles run

(b)   Most of the people are disciplined as they are military representative

 5.      Limitations -Police face

(a) Manually operated

(b) Not equipped with advanced technology

(c)    Not well trained human resources

(d)   Most cases Constable does not have arresting power (Sergeant required)

(e)    Nominal fine

(f)    (f) do not have vehicles to chase car or buses

 Achievements of traffic division

(a)    Roads are free from human puller

(b)   One way roads

(c)    Controlled movement of trucks and long-route buses

(d)   Cases filed – 4 lakh 88 thousand (Year 2007)

(e)    Revenue earned – 16 crore 50 lakh ( Year 2007 )

 7.      Areas to emphasize

We need integrated and holistic approach

(a)   Traffic Education (for mass people)

(b)   Traffic Engineering (infrastructure)

(c)    Traffic Enforcement (by police)

(d)   Traffic Environment (participation of all)

 8. Punishment given – 300 officers (2007)

From Northern part of Dhaka, main business district Motijheel is about 25 kilometers. If a car moves at the speed of 60 KM per hour, one should reach Motijheel in 25 minutes. If at 30 KM per hour, even than people should reach in 1 hour maximum. But it is a common scenario in Dhaka that to reach from Northern part to the main business district during rush hours one needs more than 2 hours at least. Sometimes it is even 4 hours. During all governments in the recent years, it has been a public demand that government should take steps to ease Dhaka traffic congestion. To ease traffic congestion, during the last BNP government [2001-2006] two FLYOVERS has been constructed in Dhaka. One at Banani and the other at Khilgaon area of the city. Adding of two flyovers doesn’t seem to have done much in easing traffic congestion. Government has to think of other substitutes. Already government has declared building of circular river ways centering Dhaka. During the rule of BNP government a circular river way was made. But because of poor maintenance and improper management, the venture didn’t work. Massive renovation work is required to put the things back in shape. The concerned minister has already taken initiative to restore the river ways around Dhaka.

Once it was believed that main reason for Dhaka Traffic Congestion is slow moving Rickshaws. But, now a day almost all the main avenues of Dhaka are free from Rickshaws. Except for a few main avenues and inner lanes, Dhaka is free from Rickshaws. Removing of Rickshaws certainly has been beneficial in doing something, e.g., if Dhaka still had Rickshaws plying on the main roads along with the fast moving vehicles, Dhaka would completely paralyze.

Expansion of commuter train service connecting Dhaka and adjacent districts in order to reduce pressure of traffic in the capital is under active consideration of the government. The government has a plan to introduce more commuter trains connecting Dhaka with its adjacent districts to free the capital from traffic congestion. One problem still remains, as some of the Rail-Ways pass through one of the busiest roads in Dhaka, when Trains pass; obstruction has to be created to avoid collision. According to experts that creates congestion not only near the Rail Gates but in the whole city. There is a substitute method in resolving traffic congestion. Many experts believe that there should be no rail roads within the city. These roads which belong to the Rail Ways can be transformed into ONE WAY EXPRESS WAY with FLYOVERS or UNDERPASSES where it meets the existing roads. Uttara Model Town is located in the Northern end of the Metropolitan Dhaka. There is already a Railway station quite adjacent to Uttara. According to many, Trains coming from other districts, should not be allowed to go within the city. Because it hampers the flow of other vehicles. There was a time when Dhaka International Airport was within the city. When the airport was shifted from the main city to the present location, people thought it was needless. But now, need to shift even the present airport to a far-away place is under active consideration. Same way, in case of the Railway Station, the main station is located in the busiest area of the city, Kamalapur. Kamalapur Railway Station was built in the sixties.

The railway minister put emphasis on improving the railway system as train fares is cheaper and the service comfortable compared to other modes of transport. But it should be also considered that if more trains run, more of traffic congestion will surely be created as it will interrupt other vehicles to flow smoothly!

Men have stepped on the moon. Now they are going from one place to another with few hours. But the citizens of Dhaka(sometimes) can not reach to Gulistan Jatrabari from Mohakhali or Farmgate within few hours. Who is responsible for this? Traffic Jam is that magician. Traffic jam has become a great monster in our modern life.

Traffic jam has turned daily trips into nightmares. The business community inevitably suffers for the constant waste of its most precious resource of time. Others commuters complain of being stuck in jam for hours an end, while residents breathe in a lat more lead and almost 10 percent of its population seeks medical treatment each year for air pollution related respiratory illnesses.

I. Drivers don’t comply with traffic rules.

II. Allegations of police support to makeshift shops on footpaths and street sidelines and illegal automobile and rickshaw parking, which occupy more than a third of the streets.

III. Some police officers are busy for extracting money for allowing illegal parking.

IV. Lack of automatic traffic signals, slow-moving illegal rickshaws and rail crossings are also causing serious traffic jam.

Many roads of Dhaka city are not spacious according to the necessity. As aresult, traffic jam occurs very now and then in the congested areas even of the highways. Overtaking tendency is another reason which causes traffic jam. Moreover, our traffic system is not so modern and the number of traffic police is insufficient. It is a matter of shame that some so-called politicians., student leaders and selfish persons also create traffic jam in order to fulfill their evil desires Rickshaws also reate traffic jam.

Traffic jam stops our normal course of life. At office time it is painful to mention that the foreigners hesitate to invest in our country for traffic jam. It is very shameful for us. In this way it defames our prestige to the foreigners. Above all traffic jam always pollutes our environment. Obnoxious smell emits form standing vehicles.

The following remedial measures can be adopted for eliminating the traffic jam:

I. Stricter laws need to be enforced to maintain discipline.

II. The number of mobile courts and checkpoints should be increased

III. Harsh punishment must be imposed on those law enforcing members who does not carry out their duty.

IV. The signal post should be constructed as early as possible.

V. The awareness campaign should be launched which will feature community level meetings, opinion pools, roadside banners, leaflets and posters, mass media advertisement and public announcement to build awareness about making road free from rickshaws.

VI. Rickshaws should be banned from the roads such as Rokeya Sarani-Mirpur 10-Farmgate, Pragati Sarani-Baridhara-Badda-Mouchak,New Eskaton Road-Banglamotor-Mouchak-Rafarbagh Crossing and Techical crossing-Mirpur-1-Mipur 2 and Azimpur to Tikatauli, Purana Purana Paltan to Sodarghat via North-South road also.

VII. According to Dhaka City Corporation (DCC), 77,000 rickshaws and 10,000 vans are registered but about three lakh rickshaws ply the streets. So the authorities need to evict illegal rickshaws.

So if we don’t be aware and the authority don’t take the remedial measures to eliminate the Traffic Jam in Dhaka city the situation will turn even more difficult with the illegal automobile and rickshaws parking

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  • When you first step foot in the capital city, Dhaka of Bangladesh, the first thing you will notice is the intense traffic jam. Dhaka is facing one of the major problems that is already being faced by other big cities in the world, more vehicle than the amount of the roads. Therefore, as a result, traffic jams are increasing day by day and it is becoming one of the most intolerable factors of the country.
  • Since Bangladesh is a small country, the capital city is considered as one of the biggest one. It has roads as much wide as it was needed and wherever needed. But, in the recent times, there has been a significant increase in the number of vehicles of the city. With the other reasons as well, the whole problem is becoming one of the biggest ones of the country.

The main problems identified for the traffic jams are:

  •   Increase in the number of vehicles
  •   Poor traffic management system
  •   Rickshaws
  •   Illegal parking
  •   Scarcity of parking spots
  •   Tendency to break the traffic law

The increased number of vehicles is an alarming factor for the country. A recent statistics shows that each day, Dhaka city gets 2000 new vehicles. For these purposes, neither did Bangladesh government plan ahead, nor they are taking any significant measures now-a-days. As a result, more and more traffic jam is making the lives of normal people a living hell. Traffic management system of Bangladesh is still the ones that were used to be in the 80s. Therefore, the new methods of traffic management is not being applied properly. Rickshaws, however, are identified as one of the most common reason for traffic jams. The number of rickshaws is very much high and they don’t maintain any law whatsoever. However, you cannot eradicate them off the street either because they are one of the best ways of communication and the greenest vehicle you may find. Parkings in the country is horrible because there isn’t enough space for parking. Most of the buildings of the country thought of having room for their works inside their buildings but never even concentrated on having a parking spot. Therefore, the parking areas chosen by these workers here are the roads itself! Bangalis have a tendency to break the traffic law. All of them are like in a competitive flow, who can go before. Such tendency are forcing them to break the law, hence, increasing unwanted traffic jam.

  • The ways to get out of these situation will cost money, well-thought traffic management system and organization. Money will be needed to improve the infrastructure of the country. It will be needed to build new flyovers, underground railways etc. to help the conditions of the country. A well planned traffic management system can help city by not having unwanted traffic jams. Organization includes the process of having a proper traffic rules and organization of rickshaw. Since rickshaws cannot be eradicated, they must be well-organized so that they don’t keep any hand on traffic jam enhancements. If the government takes and proper initiatives, they can get rid of traffic jams more easily they think they can. It’s just a matter of time that the city will be flourished with an organized traffic-jam free road.


Frequencies of road traffic accidents and casualties in Bangladesh have been growing steadily in recent years, particularly in terms of fatal accidents and fatalities. (However, rates have dropped). For better understanding of patterns of frequencies and rates of traffic accidents with casualties, a statistical analysis has been conducted for accidents with casualties. This analysis is also conducted for determination to what extent traffic accidents and casualties are related, or whether these are prejudiced by different attributes/ locations. The findings from this study will aid the road users and policy-makers to better understand the issues associated with traffic accidents and casualties.

Author: Asad Saimon

Traffic Jam in Dhaka City