Author: Dhrubo Alam

In present days, Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is perhaps mostly associated with the word – ‘traffic congestion’. It has become a megacity with one of the most congested traffic networks. The upcoming Mass Rapid Transit and Expressways are expected to solve all the problems like a panacea. But in reality, they will cater to only about 12.5% of the total demand for trips in the city albeit constructing five (5) Metro and two (2) Bus Rapid Transit Lines. Moreover, expressways prioritize private vehicles rather than promoting public transport or pedestrians. Among motorized vehicles and public transport, buses will still remain as the most important mode of transportation (in the year 2035, as projected by RSTP, 2015-16) while walking will be the other significant mode. 

The Revised Strategic Transport Plan (RSTP), 2015-16
The Revised Strategic Transport Plan (RSTP) proposed quite a few proposals including Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Ring Roads, Radial Roads, expressways, transportation hubs, etc. The main recommendations are:
– 5 (five) Mass Rapid Transit (MRT)
– 2 (two) Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
– 3 (three) Ring Roads (Inner, Middle, and Outer Ring)
– 8 (eight) Radial Roads (Dhaka – Joydebpur, Dhaka – Tongi – Ghorashal, Dhaka – Purbachal – Bhulta, Dhaka – Kanchpur – Meghna Bridge, Dhaka – Signboard – Narayanga nj, Dhaka – Jhilmil – Ikuria, Dhaka – Aminbazar – Savar, Dhaka – Ashulia – DEPZ)
– 6 (six) Expressways (Dhaka Elevated Express, Dhaka – Ashulia Elevated Expressway, Dhaka – Chittagong Expressway, Dhaka – Sylhet Expressway, Dhaka – Mawa Expressway, Dhaka – Mymensingh Expressway)
– 21 (twenty-one) Transportation hubs, the main ones include Dhaka International Airport, Kamalapur Station, Mohakhali bus Terminal, Jatra Bari Bus Terminal, Gabtoli Bus Terminal, Gabtoli Circular Waterway Station, and Shdarghat Boat Terminal, etc.

MASS RAPID TRANSIT PROJECTS

MRT 1
The feasibility study has been completed. Detail Design started from December 2018.

MRT 2
Discussion about G2G going on with Japan. Japan Govt. nominated SWG/ Marubeni Corp.

BRT 3
Northern Part: Gazipur to Airport Section
Package 1: (At-grade Road widening, lane, station construction, etc.)
About 25% of the work is done.
Package 2: (Elevated Road widening, lane, flyover, bridge & station construction)
Work is at the initial stage.
Package 3: (Footpath, drainage and other civil infrastructures)
About 70% of the work is done.
Package 4: (Bus Depot construction)
Work is almost complete.
Southern Part: Airport to Jhilmil Project, Keraniganj
Detail design has been completed for the whole route.
Will be constructed in 3 phases.
1st Phase (Airport to Mohakhali):
The loan agreement with the World Bank is under discussion. (May 2019)
MRT 4
Discussion about constructing with PPP is going on.

MRT 5
Northern Part:
Request for Proposal (RFP) issued for Detail Design.
Southern Part:
Expression of Interest (EoI) issued for Detail Design.

MRT 6
1st Phase (Uttara 3rd Phase to Agargaon): to be completed December 2019
2nd Phase (Agargaon to Bangladesh Bank, Motijheel): to be completed December 2020.
1st Phase: about half of the work is completed (May 2019)
Total: Almost 25% of the work is completed (May 2019)
Inauguration: 16th December 2021

BRT 7
Feasibility Study is going on by consultants appointed by Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) and will be completed by June 2020. 

RING ROAD PROJECTS

Inner Ring Road
It is also known as the Dhaka Circular Road. The western portion (Abdullahpur – Dhaur – Birulia – Gabtoli – Babubazar – Kadamtoli – Teghoria – Postogola – Fatulla – Chashara – Haziganj – Shimrail – Demra) will be implemented by RHD. There will be few changes in the RSTP shown alignment due to changes in the plan and new infrastructures.
Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) will construct an embankment on the Eastern Bypass side (25.85 km, Demra – Purbachal Road – Teromukh – Abdullahpur). A project is already underway. There is also a proposal from Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) to build an elevated expressway along the median in this section.

Middle Ring Road
The alignment of the middle ring road is Hemayetpur – Kalakandi – 3rd Shitalakkhya Bridge – Madanpur – Bhulta (along Dhaka bypass) – Kodda (Gazipur) – Bypile (DEPZ) – Hemayetpur. RHD has signed a contract with China Joint Venture Company to construct 48 km Dhaka bypass (Joydebpur – Debugram – Bhulta – Madanpur) in the eastern side by PPP which will be completed in September 2022. The western side of Middle Ring Road (Hemayetpur – Kalakandi – 3rd Shitalakkhya Bridge – Madanpur) is under consideration for construction with G2G on a PPP basis with Marubeni Corporation of Japan. Most likely it will be at-grade.
On the other hand, BBA has completed a feasibility study for an expressway starting from Baliapur (on Dhaka – Aricha Highway) along Nimtoli – Keraniganj – Fatullah – Bandar to Langalband (Dhaka – Chittagong Highway). It is under consideration to build by G2G with Malaysia.

Outer Ring Road
Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) has taken steps to conduct a feasibility study for the alignment.

TRANSPORT HUBS 

Dhaka Airport
Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport will be reconstructed as a multimodal hub. In order to take the project ahead, Bangladesh Railway (BR) has already in talks with Japan for implementing it with G2G on a PPP basis.

Kamalapur Station
Bangladesh Railway has been in discussion with Japan for implementing the project in G2G on a PPP basis. Kajima Corporation is leading the Japanese team and already preparing a concept plan.

Mohakhali Bus Terminal
The terminal will be reconstructed and reoriented as a part of the BRT Line-3 project.

Gabtoli Bus Terminal
The terminal will be transformed into an integrated transport hub as a part of the MRT Line-5 project. 

Unfortunately, the needs of the people are as usually ignored while taking up the projects recommended in RSTP. Their lack of political and economic power and thus inability to influence politicians who shape government policies; resulted in ignoring the implementation of the important components of RSTP which would have mitigated transport problems of the masses. Instead, recent steps and decisions are more or less focused on trying to speed up travel for the motorized elite by constructing numerous grade-separated flyovers, overpasses and interchanges (e.g. Jatrabari-Gulistan flyover, Kuril interchange, Banani overpass, etc.) disregarding the needs of pedestrians and public transport users.

In recent developments, modern megacities of the world tend to move towards public transport and walking. It is a blessing for a developing city like Dhaka to already have that desirable modal choice (travel by bus and walking) which others are trying so hard to achieve. In order to utilize this to our advantage, we have to properly plan and restructure Dhaka’s bus network, operation and service as soon as possible. Also, with such a large number of people preferring to walk, we must provide proper facilities and priority to pedestrians not only on the basis of traffic demand but also from a transport equity perspective. We must realize Dhaka is in a unique position, where only mega projects may not always deliver the expected results unless we understand the context of the city and plan properly to provide services to the people.

 

DHRUBO ALAM
Transport Planner for
Bus Route Rationalization and Company based
Operation of Bus Service in Dhaka
Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA)

 

Problems and Prospects

ities have always been the center of growth for a civilization. In earlier times, rivers were the lifelines for the cities, in ancient civilizations. But along with history, surface transports like roads and rails started to get preferences because of being reliable, fast and user-friendly (especially some of them provide door-to-door services). For the first time in history, the Romans constructed a large transport network and infrastructures like bridge and dykes and gave birth to the phrase All roads lead to Rome. Also, the Silk Route and the Royal Route existed for thousands of years. But all of these trade links which connected regions, not urban corridors.

The cities had avenues and plazas, which were designed basically for the pedestrians and used as a gathering space, generally as a market. Even though Dhaka was quite small in terms of area, it also had a Chawk (city center), like most of the famous cities around the world at that time. As more and more new cities came into being and existing ones were rapidly expanding in the middle ages, the idea of public transport came up, a mode of transport which can be shared.

Where Does Dhaka Lie?
Even though Bangladesh has achieved an amazing feat in reducing the annual growth rate of population, the size of the population is still large when compared with the size of the country. If the current trend continues, the population of Bangladesh is expected to reach to about 194 million in 2050 (UN 2012). Understandably, this population exerts tremendous pressure on a limited resource base.

Along with national population growth, the percentage of people living in urban areas has also been rising. 1.8 million people were living in urban areas in 1951 which increased to 13.5 million, 22.5 million, 31 million and 33.5 million in 1981, 1991, 2001 and 2011 respectively; an eighteen-fold increase in last 60 years. The country faces enormous challenges in coping with the infrastructures and service requirements for its rapidly growing urban population, particularly in the capital city – Dhaka.

Dhaka has seen astonishing growth and rapid development since 1971. It has changed into the capital of a nation from a mere provincial city since the birth of Bangladesh. It is one of the only seven cities in the world which has experienced urban population growth higher than 2.4% between 1975-2005 (UN, 2006). It was one of the top ten megacities in the world in 2011 in terms of population. Unfortunately, the development took place in an unplanned way, especially since the 1990s. These days the name Dhaka regularly comes up in the lists of most unlivable cities.
Dhaka is probably one of the very few megacities in the world without any well and properly planned design or guideline for the expanding mass transit system. Few other cities can be named like Lagos, Karachi or Kinshasa, but none of them has a population density of about 43,000 or probably 50,000 people per square kilometer. According to some projections, approximately 24 million and 35 million people will reside in Dhaka respectively in 2030 and 2050 respectively.

A Transport System in Dire Straits
Dhaka suffers from critical and deteriorated traffic congestion, despite its low level of motorization. This horrible situation prevails largely due to absolute lack of roads, deficient road network configuration and inefficient traffic management. The existing public transport system, bus transit operations, in particular, is characterized as far short of the desirable mobility needs of the people in terms of reliability, comfort speed, and safety. In Dhaka, buses are generally considered unreliable and time-consuming to reach the destination. It is one of the very few megacities of the world without a proper public transport system.

The present public transport system in Dhaka city consists of only conventional bus services (buses and minibusses) and para-transits (e.g. rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, taxis, battery bikes etc.). Lack of effective public transport system and preference of door to door service influence the augmentation of private cars and another modal shifting. Though railway was very popular and still is a relatively safer and cheaper transport system in the context of Bangladesh; a consequence of the absence of proper initiatives and investment in the urban corridors, it could not play the expected role in Dhaka’s public transport system. Moreover, rail tracks run through the Central Business Districts (CBD) and congested areas of the city with numerous of level crossings which will result in enormous congestion if any commuter service is operated.

All the given factors created a situation where cars and motorcycles are becoming increasingly a necessity for the middle class, to get around in Dhaka. As a result, further congesting the roads and worsening air pollution, noise, and safety problems. The number of the registered motorized vehicle stands at 1,255,402 in April 2018 increasing from 303,215 in 2003 (a fourfold increase in 15 years). More than 36% of all registered vehicles are in Dhaka (total 3,419,884 in Bangladesh) (BRTA, 2012; BRTA, 2018).

The alarming trend which can be spotted is that, while the percentage of buses and minibusses remain almost the same in this period; private vehicles, particularly the number of cars and motorcycles almost tripled. Public transport such as buses and minibusses has grown at a very insignificant rate even though the demand for public transport services is increasing. Motorcycles and cars constitute around 54% and 26% of total motorized vehicles respectively.

To improve the current situation and reorganize the existing traffic system methodically, the government prepared the Strategic Transport Plan (STP) for Dhaka (2005); which has been recently revised (it has now become Revised Strategic Transport Plan, RSTP from 2015). It recommended a package of comprehensive programs for the development of transport infrastructure over a 20 year period. This strategy includes various types of development agendas, such as three Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) (Metrorail) routes, more than 50 highway projects, expressways, flyovers etc.

Conclusion
If Dhaka needs to survive the juggernaut called ‘development’ and ‘urbanization’, it must make a proper plan not only to provide guidelines on paper but also for implementation in the realm; where there is no room for a mistake. Already authorities tried to and have been successful in banning NMTs from some parts of the city. So, like other developing cities around the world, NMTs will be restricted in the near future for Dhaka too. Hence, for transportation equity and accessibility, not only public transit is necessary but also Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) (e.g. subway, BRT, LRT etc.) are required and these projects must not fail to achieve their intended goals. We sincerely hope that the ongoing projects of MRT and BRT will help to ease the present horrendous situation.

 

What was, what is and what can be the future of public transport for Bangladesh.

Dhaka has seen unprecedented growth and development since the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971, transforming into the capital of a nation from a mere provincial capital. It is one of the only seven cities in the world which has experienced urban population growth higher than 2.4% during 1975 to 2005. However, due to poor planning, especially since 1990, Dhaka has secured a spot in the list of most unlivable cities.

The transport system has become one of the major problems in Dhaka. The city is infamous for its never-ending traffic gridlocks and severe lack of traffic safety. Similar to every other megacity of the developing world, rapid growth, low income, and extreme inequality are among the fundamental reasons of transport problems in Dhaka.

CURRENT TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM SCENARIO OF DHAKA
Despite having a low level of motorization, Dhaka streets are plagued with traffic congestion, and a deteriorating traffic system. This critical state is largely due to inadequate road space, unplanned road network configuration and archaic traffic management system. Among the existing public transport system, bus transit operations in particular are characterized as the least desirable mobility option for people, especially in terms of reliability, comfort, speed and safety.

Road Inventory
Dhaka’s road network hierarchy is poorly defined, with a very limited number of arterial and main roads. The road inventory of Dhaka, affirmed by different organizations and areas are provided below: * Table 1

Only 10.4% roads are satisfactory for public transport. ‘Connector roads’ are suitable as transit corridors, but there is a mere 30% of roads available for their services, which is only about 400 km (see Table 2). Moreover, this space is also shared by Non-Motorized Traffic (NMT) e.g. rickshaws, rickshaw vans, push carts etc. and bus priority measures become sidelined, prioritized second when they compete for road space with other modes of transportation.

MODAL SHARE
The prevailing situation is worsened by the sharing of this inadequate space by both motorized and non-motorized traffic (heterogeneous traffic mix) and vehicles with varying characteristics (e.g. three-wheelers, human haulers, pickups, vans etc.). Some major features found from the survey conducted for ‘Clean Air and Sustainable Environment’ (CASE) project can be acknowledged as:
– Buses comprise 9.7% of the vehicle mix that combines all vehicles and pedestrians;
– Rickshaws and vans comprise 28.4% of all vehicles;
– Auto-rickshaws (with 36.8%) and Cars/Light Vehicles (with 43%) comprise a substantial proportion of all motorized vehicles (2-stroke three wheelers);
– Whereas buses comprise a small proportion (9.7%) of the mix, bus passengers account for 77% of all people.

Table 3 shows modal distribution (in terms of trips) by income groups. From the table, it is clear that low income groups are responsible for the lion’s share of trips on foot (73%) while most of the rickshaw trips are made by the middle income group (59%). These two income groups are the main users of available transit services in Dhaka, which is a promising sign. The significance of walking, rickshaws and transit trips are obvious as they cater for 97% of city dwellers.

Unsurprisingly, very few in the lower income demography (e.g. day laborers, garments workers etc.) can afford bus fares, although they are quite low and most of the trips are short, forcing them to travel on foot, causing them to suffer lower levels of mobility and accessibility.

Vehicular Growth
Rapid urbanization, income growth coupled with inferior transportation facilities and policies, have created a situation where cars and motorcycles are becoming increasingly necessary for the middle class to get around in the metropolitan. With the overconcentration of non-motorized vehicles, the absence of a decent public transport system and inefficient traffic management practices only further congest the roads and worsen the air pollution, noise, and safety issues. The number of registered motorized vehicle stands at 1,255,402 in April, 2018, increasing from 303,215 in 2003 (a fourfold rise in 15 years). More than 36% of all registered vehicles are in Dhaka (total 3,419,884 in Bangladesh).

The alarming trend is that while the percentage of buses and minibuses remained the same, private vehicles such as cars and motorcycles almost tripled. Public transport such as buses and minibuses have grown at an insignificant rate even though the demand for public transport services is increasing. Motorcycles and cars constitute around 54% and 26% of total motorized vehicles respectively.

The data is from BRTA registration document available on their website. There might be some discrepancies in the database, between the years 2011-2012.

CURRENT SITUATION OF THE BUS INDUSTRY
There are 31,922 buses and 10,441 minibuses registered (as of April, 2018) which represent only about 5.7% (buses and minibuses combined) of total motorized traffic. Although the number of large buses and minibuses increased in the last 5 years (hovering around 5%-7% of total traffic), the share/percentage of bus fleets have been declining slowly (see figure 2), which proves the increment in supply cannot cope with the huge travel demand.

A recent summary of characteristics and information about Dhaka’s bus industry and fleet are presented in the following tables and figures.
The volume of buses and minibuses have increased substantially, although not enough. Most of the new vehicles are CNG-converted (Compressed Natural Gas), mainly because of soaring fuel prices (current price: Octane-Tk89/Liter, Petrol-Tk86/Liter, Diesel-Tk65/Liter, whereas the price of CNG is only Tk48/ cft). There were government initiatives to make all government vehicles CNG-fuelled. ‘Dhaka Clean Fuel Project’ by Rupantarita Prakitik Gas Company Ltd. with help from developing partners, encouraged and helped convert vehicles to CNG.
The data used in Table 3 is probably from the period of 2004-2006, when the number of CNG fuelled vehicles was increasing. Although most of the heavy vehicles running in the city are CNG-fuelled, there is still a significant number of diesel-run vehicles as the government provides subsidy on its price.

The bus fleet of Dhaka is not very old (as seen in Figure 3), but poor maintenance, inadequate technology, unavailability of required facilities are the main causes for their deplorable condition. The reason behind the majority of buses manufactured in 2002 is that the government banned buses older than 20 years. Thus, there was a rush to import or buy new buses and minibuses. Also, the introduction of CNG and support from the government for conversion made an impact in 2003.

Table 4 shows that nearly 70% of the route length is within 11 to 30km, which is the extent Dhaka city can be termed by length in north-south direction. These routes crisscross the city and serve the users quite well. But in actuality, there are unnecessary and unwanted overlapping of routes, with the sole intention of profit maximization and operational advantages, as observed in Table 5.
Most bus companies in Dhaka are small to medium sized (roughly 70% of them have only 11 to 30 buses) (see Table 6). However, all buses from a company do not have single person or entity ownership. Instead, a handful of individuals own either one or a few buses. These groups form and run a bus company together. As a result, these companies’ buses ply the roads like individually owned buses.

 

CONCLUSION
The prerequisite for economic activity is the mobility of inhabitants by providing an efficient transport system.
Buses and minibuses – the cheapest mass transit modes available in Dhaka – are constrained by poor service conditions. Long waits, delays, overloading and lengthy walks from the residence/work place to bus stops are a few of the problems that users confront every day. This situation has resulted in deterioration in accessibility, level of service, safety, comfort and operational efficiency, causing increased costs, loss of time, air pollution and psychological strain, posing a serious risk to the economic viability of the city and the sustainability of its environment.

Dhaka is probably one of the few megacities in the world without a properly planned and well-constructed mass transit system. Few others can be named such as Lagos, Karachi or Kinshasa, but none of them have a population density of about 43,000 people per square kilometer. According to projections, approximately 24 million and 35 million people will reside in Dhaka respectively in 2030 and 2050 respectively. So, if Dhaka needs to survive the juggernaut called ‘development’, it must fix its transport system by incorporating a properly planned and fluid public transport network.

by Dhrubo Alam, Muntakim Haque, Ananya Roy, Fatiha Polin

The Congestion Conundrum and Public Transport
Dhaka suffers from critical and deteriorated traffic congestion, despite its low level of motorization, largely due to the absolute lack of roads, deficient road network configuration and inefficient traffic management. Existing public transport system, bus transit operations, in particular, is characterized as far short of the desirable mobility needs of the people in terms of reliability, comfort speed, and safety. In Dhaka, buses are generally considered unreliable and time-consuming to reach the destination. It is one of the very few megacities of the world without a proper public transport system.

The present public transport system in Dhaka city consists of conventional bus services (buses and minibusses) and para-transits (e.g. rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, taxis, battery bikes etc.). Lack of effective public transport system and preference of door to door service influence the augmentation of private cars and other modal shiftings. Though railway was very popular and still is a relatively safer and cheaper transport system in the context of Bangladesh, the absence of proper initiatives and investment in the urban corridor, it could not play the expected role in Dhaka’s public transport system. Moreover, rail tracks run through the Central Business Districts (CBD) and congested areas of the city with lots of level crossing which results in enormous congestion.

All the given factors thus created a situation where cars and motorcycles are becoming increasingly necessary for the middle class, to get around in the metropolitan Dhaka, further congesting the roads and worsening air pollution, noise, and safety problems. The number of the registered motorized vehicle stands at 708,197 in June 2012 increasing from 303,215 in 2003 (an amount that has more than doubled in the last nine years). More than 40% of all registered vehicles are in Dhaka (total 1,751,834 in Bangladesh).

The alarming trend which can be observed is that, while the total number of buses remain almost same in this nine-year period, private vehicles, particularly, number of cars and motorcycles more than doubled. Though the number of buses and minibusses has grown at a very insignificant rate, the demand for public transport services has increased noticeably. On the contrary, motorcycles, cars, and jeeps/ station wagons constitute around 42%, 25% and 10% (77% in total) of all motorized vehicles respectively.

To improve the current situation and reorganize the existing traffic system methodically, the government prepared the Strategic Transport Plan (STP) for Dhaka (2005); which has been recently revised (it has now become RSTP) (2015). It recommended a package of comprehensive programs for the development of transport infrastructure over 20 year period. This strategy includes various types of development agendas, such as three Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) (Metrorail) routes, more than 50 highway projects, expressways, flyovers etc.

Unfortunately, the implementation of the components of STP or RSTP does not reflect the intention to mitigate transport problems of the masses. Ignoring the needs of non-motorized travelers, recent policies at all government levels have focused on trying to lessen the travel time for the motorized elite of the city by putting preference on the constructions of numerous grade-separated flyovers, overpasses, and interchanges (e.g. Jatrabari-Gulistan flyover, Kuril interchange, Banani overpass etc.).

The motorization and development come at a price of depleting the transportation equity of a city. For example, from an environmental and equity perspective, major concerns exist regarding the rapid increase of motorized two-wheelers. Some have even characterized the motorcycle as likely the “most challenging” transport problem that Asia will face in the next decade. The rapid private motorization and current prevalence of NMTs (Non-Motorized Traffic, mostly rickshaws) is not a sustainable solution although they may help to increase mobility in short term. Authority attempts have been successful in banning NMTs from some parts of the city. Like other developing cities around the world, NMTs will be restricted in near future for Dhaka too. Hence, for transportation equity and accessibility, not only public transit is necessary but also Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) (e.g. subway, BRT, LRT etc.) are required and we hope that the ongoing projects of MRT and BRT will help to ease the present horrendous situation.

Seeing Through the Smog: Air Pollution at an All-Time High
Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh and eighth largest city in the world in terms of population (2013), has been infamous for being heavily polluted. It was termed as the most polluted city when lead (Pb) in the air was reported higher than in the atmosphere of any other place of the world (1997). Pollution from traffic and brick kilns has been identified as two of the most significant of all the factors in the studies. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, in order to improve the severe situation, the authorities took some decisions (e.g. banning two-stroke engines, introducing Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) etc.). But, other than numerous sporadic studies and projects, there has been little systematic research or successful project implementation on air pollution of the city. Unfortunately, unless the situation becomes extremely hazardous or almost uninhabitable, the trend for the authorities is to adopt the ‘Do nothing’ approach.

The main culprits for air pollution are large numbers of high polluting vehicles, impure fuel, inefficient land use, overall poor traffic management, and industries (especially brick kilns). The most important pollutants are identified as Carbon monoxide (CO), Sulfur dioxide (SO2), lead (Pb), Nitrogen oxides (NOx), Ozone (O3), Hydrocarbons (HC), Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) and last but not the least; Particulate Matter (PM) with an aerodynamic diameter of less than or equal to 10µm (PM10 and PM2.5). Observations show that the concentration of SO2, O3, CO, and NOx go up in dry season significantly. The same has been also true for PM2.5 and PM10.
The estimated PM emissions from different modes indicated that around 54% emission contribution is from bus/minibus, followed by truck and tanker (26%). The black spot areas for PM were located in the intercity routes and the major bus terminals. The bus terminals (Gabtoli and Sayedabad) showed average estimated values above 110 μg/m3 of PM. Locations with highest concentrations of PM are Sheraton, Farmgate, Sonargaon, Mohakhali-Gulshan intersection and Banglamotor.

When a team of researchers performed field studies in the 90s, to measure ambient NO2 concentration in 51 street locations, one residential area and four personal exposures; 35 of them are identified as the black spots. Most polluted locations of NOx were Syedabad bus stand, Sheraton hotel roundabout, Sonargaon hotel roundabout, Farmgate intersection and Moghbazar intersection. The calculation of NOx indicated that bus and minibus (diesel operated) and motor car have the significant contribution of NOx (30%), followed by heavy-duty vehicles (truck and tanker) (28%). The situation got much worse now after 20 years, as there have been no visible steps to improve the situation.

Researchers found that NOx and SOx emissions from transportation systems in national pollution averaged 34% and 47%, respectively. In case of SO2 in Dhaka, the contribution is mainly coming from high sulfur content in the diesel fuel. It was estimated that buses powered by diesel fuel contribute 58% SO2 emission followed by trucks and tankers 34%.

Even in the late 1980s, the instantaneous average concentration of CO exceeded the then international standard of 10 ppm. It is estimated that auto-rickshaws and cars are the major contributors (35%), followed by motorcycles (24%). The five locations severely polluted by CO were Moghbazar, Kakrail, Bijoynagar, Mohakhali rail crossing adjacent road, and Mohakhali (Amtali). In addition, the 5 locations polluted by HC were Moghbazar, Kakrail, Bijoynagar, Mohakhali rail crossing adjacent road, and Sonargaon hotel roundabout.
At present, air pollution in metropolitan Dhaka has been increasing at a steady rate for more than three decades. Annual average increases of 6.5% in NOx, 5.8% in HC, 5.9% in CO, 5.6% in PM and 6% in SOx emissions were observed from 1981 to 1996. These rates have certainly not gone down, as the number of motorized vehicles is rapidly increasing. This results in chronic congestions almost at every intersection, resulting in more and more emissions.

It is proven that the impacts of policy decisions (e.g. banning of two-stroke engines and leaded gasoline, introduction on CNG etc.) can have far-reaching results in a positive way. The ever-increasing amount of PM2.5 and PM10 are getting out of the hand, and making the city reportedly one of the most polluted in the world. If we do not take proper effective measures to mitigate the problem now, there will be grave consequences.

The Draining Factor: When Sewage is Stagnant
In almost all cases, settlements were located by a water source for water supply, irrigation and of course sanitation. Sanitation, from the beginning of civilization, has been one of the key factors in ensuring the survival of a large number of people living in permanent settlements. Being as fundamental as it is, this quite self-evidently has not changed and is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.
This begs the question, how would one effectively deal with all the waste produced by the near to 17 million residents of Dhaka? According to a report from the World Health Organisation, a lot more than what is currently being done. The report concludes that nearly two-thirds of the households of Dhaka are at risk of E. coli contamination in water and more than a fifth are at very high risk of E. coli infections. Of course, the citizens are vigilant, boiling the water that they consume as they rightly don’t trust it. However, doing this only treats the symptoms of an inadequate system and not the underlying cause.

Dhaka has three main methods of dealing with its sewage; septic tanks, sewage treatment plant and leaving it completely untreated. Septic tanks are required by regulation of Dhaka’s building code. However, it is not always implemented, as homeowners often opt to cut costs and older buildings that don’t already have septic tanks are not inspected to bring them up to code. Septic tank is an on-spot sewage treatment method and it processes the sewage to an acceptable degree, followed by the routine collection and disposal of the remaining sludge by the local and city authorities. How is it dealt with? Well, there are no sewage sludge treatment plants in Dhaka to correctly process it. Therefore, they end up in landfills and given the amount of soil that is eroded into water bodies and how all the hydrological systems in Dhaka are connected, ultimately the rotting bacteria infested sludge leeches into the water and contaminates it. Unfortunately, this is not the pipeline end of the matter.

One of the biggest issues plaguing Dhaka, especially during monsoon season, is the constant flash-flooding and waterlogging. The reason it has become so frequent and unmanageable is the loss of water bodies which would hold the water during the monsoon season and allow Dhaka’s citizens to get on with their lives. Water bodies have in the past been encroached and these losses often echo in their names, and it’s still going on. In these places where all the surplus rainwater was supposed to go now stand structures like the infamous BGMEA building in Kawran Bazar, other lesser known constructions that just popped up before anyone even noticed an entire residential area like Bashundhara and Purbachal with new ones underway. How were these operations of various scales pulled off? The larger residential areas do this with systematic corruption, forced land acquisition followed by filling as much of the submerged area as possible with sand. Smaller scale encroachment is masterminded in plain sight but somehow goes unnoticed. They dump enough garbage to create a firm foothold in the water, then they wall the area away from sight, and then they start building their structures. This is a maliciously planned practice that feeds the business model of land grabbing, with little regard shown to the inconvenience of all the inhabitants of the area and to the law. The system has come full circle, the sewage that is not properly treated is also improperly dumped and thus leeches into the water causing water to be contaminated, and then the filled up water bodies cannot hold the rainwater, so it has nowhere to go and then when the water comes, it overflows and that water goes everywhere. Dhaka is living in its own filth, the only action we’ve managed to undertake is to put some time between us producing the waste and it ends up everywhere.

The sewage treatment plant in Pagla deals with about a fifth of the total sewage produced by the inhabitants of Dhaka. It uses a network of sewers to collect the sewage and lagoons for anaerobic treatment of the sewage. The network theoretically extends all over Dhaka. However, most areas don’t have a household level reach. With pipelines under major roadways merely surrounding these areas and having no real connection to the residences. The sludge is then dried and dumped into specific areas within and outside the plant. However, certain reports suggest that even the dried and treated effluent have too much heavy metal content to be deemed safe from contaminating water supplies.

Well, there might be some light at the end of this tunnel. There are plans that have been approved that address most of these issues. There is an expansion proposal of sewage treatment plants starting with the updating of Pagla to higher standards. The plan extends to the creation of three additional treatment plants that will connect to respective zones to ensure all of Dhaka has sanitary sewage treatment. Encroachment and other illegal activities are not covered in this plan, but it’s a scheme to improve our sanitation standards, not a magic wand. The plan is expected to be implemented by 2035 and is estimated to cost a billion dollars. It has been a long time coming but the citizens of Dhaka can finally look forward to better sanitation standards for their city.

Sources
· Karim, M.M., 1997. Traffic Pollution in Bangladesh & Metropolitan Dhaka a Preliminary Investigation, Article published in AMITECH’s news page, 9 October.

· Karim, M. M.,1999. Traffic Pollution Inventories and Modeling in Metropolitan Dhaka, Bangladesh, Transportation Research Part D 4, 291-312

· Hoque, M. M., Ahsan, H. M., Barua, S., and Alam, D., 2012. BRT in Metro Dhaka: Towards Achieving a Sustainable Urban Public Transport System, Proceedings of CODATU XV: The Role of Urban Mobility in reshaping Cities, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

· Ahmed, N., 1997. Air Pollution in Dhaka City, Keynote speech at Chemical Engineering Division of Institute of Engineers Bangladesh (IEB), May 1997.

· Begum, D. A., 2004. Air pollution: A Case Study of Dhaka City, In Better Air Quality conference ‘(BAQ)-2004’ December 2004, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, Agra, India.

· Begum, B. A., Biswas S. K., and Hopke P. K., 2011. Key issues in controlling air pollutants in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Atmospheric Environment 45, 7705-7713.

· Strategic Transport Plan (STP) for Dhaka. 2005, Final Report, prepared by Louis Berger Group, Inc. & Bangladesh Consultants Ltd (BCL) for Dhaka Transport Co-Ordination Authority (DTCA), Ministry of Communications.

· Shankland Cox Partnership, Dacca Metropolitan Area Integrated Urban Development Project. Government of Bangladesh/Asian Development Bank/United Nations Development Programme, Dhaka, 1981.

· Gwilliam, K. 2003 ‘Urban transport in developing countries’, Transport Reviews, Vol. 23, No. 2, 197-216.

· Ahmed, K.A., 1980, ‘Traffic Problems in Dhaka City’, Local Government Institute, Dhaka.

· Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (2012), ‘Number of Yearwise Registered Motor Vehicles in Dhaka’, Available at http://www.brta.gov.bd/images/files/motor_v _dhaka_05-08-12.pdf.

· UNICEF, 2013, Bangladesh Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2012-2013, Progotir Pathey: Final Report. Available at: https://washdata.org/sites/default/files/documents/reports/2017-07/Bangladesh-2013-MICS-WASH-report.pdf

· Chamber, G., Tank, P. S., & Lagoon, F. 1998, Optimisation of sewage treatment process at Pagla.