The delay in approving the much-talked-about elevated metro railway project plan intended to ease the nagging traffic congestion in the capital Dhaka, apparently because of bureaucratic tangles in the planning ministry, cannot be acceptable. As mentioned in a New Age report on Friday, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, the lone financier of the billion-dollar project, chalked up a time-bound work plan regarding it in December 2011, which suggests the completion of the approval process before April. Accordingly, the communications ministry sought the planning ministry’s approval for the project in January. Regrettably, however, the latter is yet to make any response. What is more worrisome is that the delay might encourage the financier to give a second thought to its commitment to project funding, needless to say, casting uncertainty even over its start at least in the Awami league-led government’s tenure. Already, particularly because of the row between relevant authorities and the Air Force over the routes of the metro railway, which ended a few months ago as the former, the government for that matter, gave in to the latter, the project has been delayed by more than a year. Moreover, against the backdrop of that delay, the donor agency raised questions about the sincerity of the government as regards the project implementation. It may be pertinent to recall that the 26km metro system was initially designed to involve a railway from Uttara to Sayedabad via Bijoy Sarani adjacent to the old airport. Following an objection from the Air Force, though, on tenuous grounds, the government has finalised the route alignment through Khamarbari and Sangsad Bhaban area instead of Bijoy Sarani which, as experts pointed out, may cause a significant rise in the overall project cost.
Yet, there is a huge public demand for the implementation of the project as soon as possible. It has become all the more so as traffic congestion has become a serious concern for city dwellers over the years. In line with a recent study, tailbacks in the city eat up nearly a staggering $3 billion every year, an amount estimated reportedly ‘by analysing travel time cost, cost of excess fuel burnt, revenue loss by passenger transport operators, environmental damage and cost of traffic accident.’ Experts are, meanwhile, in unison to conclude that the factors that contribute most to this problem include the lack of mass transports in the city. On the other hand, according to the project plan in question, the metro rail will carry around 40,000 to 45,000 passengers an hour which means that, once implemented, the project will indeed be a boost to not only the city traffic system but also the country’s economy that has been in peril for a host of understandable reasons ever since the incumbents assumed office in 2009.
The government immediately needs to take the officials concerned in the planning ministry to task for the delay and redouble its efforts to implement the metro rail project soon.
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