Transport experts have criticised the government for not including a design for waterway rings around Dhaka city in the Revised Strategic Transport Plan (RSTP).
Aside from improving roads, river ways around the capital must be made usable to alleviate traffic congestion, they said at a public hearing on the plan at the Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) conference room on Thursday.
SM Saleh Uddin, a transport expert and former executive director of the Dhaka Transport Coordination Board, said, "The 20-year Strategic Transport Plan (STP) was adopted in 2005 with the aim of building a well-designed and integrated modern public transport system for Dhaka metropolis and its surrounding areas."
"There were recommendations for creating circular waterways around the capital and to free up occupied sidewalks, but these elements were ignored in the amended plan. In order to make Dhaka traffic-free, we have to give importance to waterways aside from roads," he added.
With Cabinet approval in 2016, the Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) has been implementing the RSTP from 2015 and will do so till 2035. The revised plan includes five Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and two Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines, three ring roads, eight radial roads, six expressways, and 21 transportation hubs.
Besides, there are recommendations for traffic management, development of a traffic safety system and restructuring of the bus transport system.
SM Rezaul Karim, designation director (Admin) of DTCA, said, "The main means of communication in this 400-year-old city were canals and rivers. The entire project has been proposed to be implemented by 2035 in four stages. Therefore, this project should consider using the canals and rivers of Dhaka as waterways."
ABM Amin Ullah Nuri, secretary to the Road Transport and Highways Division, said, "The main problem of Dhaka city is traffic congestion and thousands of working hours are being wasted due to this issue."
"Through this public hearing, we have to come up with a time-befitting transport plan with the involvement of all stakeholders, which will connect Dhaka with Narayanganj, Gazipur, Munshiganj, Manikganj, and Narsingdi," he added.
Neelima Akhter, executive director of DTCA, said, "It is necessary to integrate waterways with road communication in order to make the city free of gridlocks and people free of stress. The RSTP is being reviewed now, and the recommendations will be added."
Professor Md Hadiuzzaman, director of the Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), said, "We do not know what percentage of the STP has been implemented, so a survey is needed to determine what steps are needed to develop a transportation system integrating river ways."