Despite the everyday struggle of Dhaka commuters due to the insufferable traffic, more and more imported reconditioned cars are flooding the streets of the city, clogging up an already overburdened road system.
Last year, an average of 75 private cars, microbuses and SUVs were introduced every day to the already congested streets of Dhaka. Of these vehicles, about 90% were reconditioned cars imported primarily from Japan.
Ignoring the advice of experts, the government has hardly done anything to control the influx of private vehicles on the streets and has failed to regulate the import of these cars.
According to the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), Dhaka streets accommodate a total of 246,697 private cars at present. Added to that are around 5,000 buses and minibuses that are on the roads for public transport.
“Private cars are carrying only 3.8% of the passengers in Dhaka while the vehicles occupy 70% of the streets. If the government does not control the number of private cars, the traffic system cannot be improved,” said Abu Naser, president of green organisation Poribesh Bachao Andolon.
The government took an initiative in 2013 to regulate the import of reconditioned cars in Bangladesh by reducing the maximum age limit of used cars from five years to three years, but could not implement it in the face of opposition from car importers.
Also Read- The true cost of cars
However, in the proposed budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year, the government has suggested reducing the depreciation facility on imported cars by 5%. If it is approved, car prices are expected to increase slightly.
Car importers, however, believe the affect will be huge.
“The government plans to cut depreciation facility will create unrest in the car market,” said Abdul Mannan Khasru, former president of the Bangladesh Reconditioned Vehicles Importers and Dealers Association. “Without improving the public transport system, it would be unwise to increase car prices or restrict import.”
Prof Shamsul Hoque from the department of civil engineering of Buet says the impact will not be as severe if prices of imported cars are increased even by Tk1 lakh.
“The government must take stricter measures on allowing new cars on the roads,” he told the Dhaka Tribune. “According to the World Bank recommendation, a city must have 25% road network for smooth traffic, but Dhaka has only 7%. None of the governments in the last 20-25 years have built new roads, despite several plans, but the number of cars plying Dhaka streets have increased manifold in the same period of time. That is the reason behind the immense traffic congestion.”
He said even though it was too late, the government should still impose restrictions on car import and the BRTA should limit registration of new cars in Dhaka.
The proposed Road Transport Act 2017, awaiting to be passed in parliament, recommends determining the number of private cars owned by each family in Dhaka.
Read More- Quader: Will fix number of cars a family can own
Road Transport and Highways Division Secretary MAN Siddique said the government had plans to restrict the number of private cars to run in Dhaka in future.
“Right now, the government is trying to improve public transportation by introducing 4,000 colour-coded buses in the Dhaka as well as procuring 600 new buses from India through the BRTC [Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation],” he told the Dhaka Tribune.