Govt to go after jam in a big way

PM says coordinated communication network to ease traffic jam, 4 adjacent districts to be incorporated; vows to explore Bay
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday told parliament the government is working out plans for an extensive and coordinated communications network to ease traffic congestions in the capital.

“We are now drawing routes for the elevated expressway in the capital. We also have plans to construct underground railway and monorail to cut tailbacks,” she said during the question-answer hour.

The prime minister said the communications plans being mapped out for the city will incorporate the adjacent districts–Gazipur, Narayanganj, Munshiganj and Manikganj.

She said the construction of a four-lane Dhaka-Chittagong highway may begin in December and end by December 2012.

The tenders submitted for the work to upgrade the two-lane Dhaka-Chittagong highway into a four-laner are now awaiting evaluation.

“The highway will be made a six-lane thruway once the country joins the proposed Asian Highway,” she said.

In response to some lawmakers voicing concern over the worsening traffic situation in the city, the prime minister also spoke of plans to construct car parks and more roads.

The other measures under consideration include increasing the number of traffic police and introducing staggered timetables for private, autonomous and semi-autonomous organisations and educational institutions.

She urged the private schools to run enough bus services for their students to obviate the need for using private cars.

Hasina called on the drivers to abide by the traffic rules.

Stressing the need for constructing car parks, she said the city streets are wide, but that does not mean they have space enough to allow on-road parking.

Talking about reasons for the dismal traffic situation, the prime minister said, “It’s quite natural that population and the number of vehicles will rise with time. The problem lies with unplanned construction of roads, malls and schools and colleges.”

During the question-answer period, Hasina strongly criticised those opposing the government’s plans to explore the offshore blocks for gas.

“I wonder why they are opposing gas exploration. Maybe they don’t want to see the country make progress and industries expand,” she added.

“We will however press ahead with our plans to search for gas in the interests of the country’s development.”

Earlier on August 24, the cabinet committee on the economic affairs approved deals with two foreign companies for oil and gas exploration in three off-shore blocks.

The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources observed a half-day hartal in the city on September 14, demanding the government scrap the deals.

About worries that the contracts would oblige the government to export gas to foreign countries, Hasina said the gas to be extracted from the Bay would be used for industrialisation in the northern districts.

The prime minister was scheduled to answer six questions yesterday. Of those, three were from opposition and independent lawmakers.

On this point, Speaker Abdul Hamid said, “It’s a good sign that the prime minister has accepted questions from the opposition.”

Addressing the PM, he noted, “You have honoured the opposition lawmakers by accepting their questions. In one sense, it’s their [opposition] participation in the parliamentary proceedings.”

A smiling Hasina replied, “Yes, you can say that.”

She said BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia never accepted questions from opposition lawmakers while a prime minister.

“Not only that, the then speaker would not allow the opposition lawmakers to raise supplementary questions. I’d however like to reply to their queries,” she added.

The Daily Star

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