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Can this be the savior of Dhaka commuters?

September 1, 2013

The lives of Dhaka residents have long been plagued by dreaded traffic jams. Everyday precious working hours are not only being lost, this traffic jam also has an adverse effect on Dhaka commuter’s sanity. A study, conducted by Australia Institute back in 2005, titled ‘Off to Work: Commuting in Australia‘ revealed that “Commuting strain is associated with feelings of nervousness and tension, physical pain and stiffness, irritability and fatigue, and poorer performance and satisfaction at work. Traffic congestion and crowding intensify all these effects.” The study also indicated that commuting strain may increase the risk of heart attack.

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I learned about the study while I was browsing through this blog post ‘Dhaka’s traffic jams are a recipe for mental break down”.

Government is working hard to solve this problem. Shuttle train service has already been introduced in the routes that connect Dhaka and the adjacent cities.However, it has not yet become popular.

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But waterbus, introduced by Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC), can give a sigh of relief to Dhaka commuters. Dhaka is circled by well-connected rivers, which can easily be turned into a waterway for transporting commuters.

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As part of Awami League’s electoral manifesto, this service was first introduced in 2010. But it failed to draw passengers; later, the authority shut it down. In July this year, the service was resumed. This time more waterbuses were introduced in Gabtali-Sadarghat route. It is only part of the the Sadarghat-Gabtoli-Ashulia-Tongi-Purbachal-Demra-Kanchpur-Mir Kadeem-Fatulla-Sadarghat circular route that embraces Dhaka.

From my own first-hand experience, I can tell, the journey from Gabtali to Badamtali—with brief stops at Kholamora and Shwarighat terminal— can take around 1 hour and 15 minutes, at the cost of Taka 40. For a daily commuter, I think the fare is pretty high.

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Had there been more waterbuses, this service would have attracted more passengers.It seems to me sooner or later private sectors have to come forward to operate waterbuses in this circular waterway. Only their participation can make this service commercially viable. This service is squeezing out fair amount of govt. revenue as govt. has to pay a subsidy, TK 4000 for each trip, for running the waterbuses.

Private sector can bring down this cost and can provide some additional revenues to govt. for dredging the waterway, vital for making the route operational.

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