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80,000 unfit cars causing severe traffic congestion, environmental hazards in city ------By Iqbal Hossain
DHAKA, Mar 9 (BSS) - Around 80,000 unfit cars are plying the
streets of Dhaka city in violation of the set laws and have been
causing severe traffic congestion and environmental hazards.

The BRTA [Bangladesh Road Transport Authority] are running
only two mobile courts led by two executive magistrates to take
actions against the huge unfit transports, sources said.

A survey of Dhaka Urban Transport Projects (DUTP) revealed
that private cars carry 8.73 percent of total commuters occupying
34.41 percent space of the road.

With the population growing in the city, motorized vehicles
are also on the rise. It is estimated that about 100 used or new
motorized vehicles are entering the Dhaka roads every day
covering only about 6 percent of the city area.

At present, more than 5 lakh motor vehicles ply in Dhaka city
alone, of them, over 2 lakh are cars. A large number of cars park
illegally on the roadside to aggravate the nagging congestion.

Joint Commissioner of Traffic Manzur Kader Khan said parking
on the road causes serious traffic congestion in different the
areas of city.

Nearly 50 percent of vehicles plying the roads in the capital
do not have fitness certificates and are causing serious
environmental hazards to Dhaka, a senior official of Bangladesh
Road Transport Authority (BRTA) told BSS.

The owners of unfit vehicles manage to receive certificates
from the BRTA in connivance with a section of dishonest
officials, sources said.

According to a World Bank report, Air pollution kills 15,000
Bangladeshis each year. Air pollution levels in Dhaka are
considerably higher than the limit mentioned in the World Health
Organisation (WHO) guidelines for residential areas.

According to a study of WHO, blood lead level above 10 g/dl
(microgram per deciliter) is considered to be a case of lead
poison. However, the lead level in the country's urban children
was 5.8 to 21.6 g/dl, and the urban slum children's lead level
ranged from 9.6 to 38.9 g/dl -- three times more than the
acceptable level.

The report says the country could save between US $ 200
million and 800 million a year -- about 0.7 to 3.0 percent of its
gross national product -- if air pollution in its four major
cities can be reduced. According to Bangladesh Road Transport
Authority (BRTA), a record 54,544 new and reconditioned cars were
sold in Dhaka up to last year, up 50 percent from the previous
five years.

BRTA sources said a record 16,944 new and reconditioned cars
were sold in Dhaka last year, up 46 percent from 2008.

Transport and urban development experts shudder at the
explosion of car sales in the city of more than 12 million
people, already notorious for its traffic congestion.

"Such a huge growth in car sales has already started to take
a heavy toll on the capital. Traffic jams are getting bigger and
lasting longer. Already we spend over three hours a day in jams,"
said Iqbal Kabir, a transport expert, adding: "Dhaka's traffic
system is heading for total breakdown."

"Car sales in the capital hit an all-time high in 2009. It's
more than twice the number of cars sold in 2007," said a senior
official of BRTA.

Authorities said car sales averaged 5,000 to 6,000 annually
for more than a decade until 2006. Car traders said the
availability of easy financing had helped fuel the record-
breaking sales run since 2006.

"Some 90 percent of the cars we sell are being financed by
private banks' consumer financing programmes.

Thanks to easy credit, even middle income people can now
afford cars," said Ahmed Kabir, an owner of car shop.

"In addition, banks, big corporate houses give interest-free
loans to employees to buy cars. It's also now the most-frequently
used carrot to lure the mid-managers," he said.

Urban planner Prof Nazrul Islam described the rise in car
sales as frightening and lamented that the capital city does not
have a mass transport system like a metro rail, commuter trains
or even a fleet of taxis.

Dhaka does not even have adequate footpaths for pedestrians,
forcing people to hire rickshaws for the smallest rides, he said.

The government needs to take urgent steps to save the city
from total chaos, he added.
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