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Traffic and Politics in Bangladesh

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Asia, Governance
The rickshaws of Dhaka
The rickshaws of Dhaka

I have been in Dhaka six months now – working for DFID Bangladesh as an economist - and one of the first things I noticed was the traffic. Previously I lived in Sierra Leone for two years, but compared to the standard of driving and volume of traffic here, Freetown is like a quiet British country lane in winter. I dodge the traffic and cycle to work. Weaving in and out of rickshaws, cars with drivers leaning on their horns (and an occasional cow) gives me a nice adrenaline rush to start and end the day with. I took the attached photo whilst riding through a sea of rickshaws in the downtown traffic. Amazingly though I am yet to see an accident. Somehow the whole frantic system hangs together (it is a different story on the rural highways of the country).

This sense of disarray frequently extends to politics, perhaps unsurprising in a developing country of nearly 150 million citizens squeezed into a small piece of land on the Bay of Bengal. The recent history of Bangladesh is one of democratic governments interspersed with military coups and caretaker administrations. And yet at the same time the people have achieved major gains in industry, health, education and other measures of development, outstripping many of the countries that DFID works in.

The country held peaceful, free and fair elections in December, which brought to power Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League; no small achievement in itself following as it did two years of a caretaker government and before that major civil unrest. Yet last month there was a massacre in a faction of the army that guards the nation’s borders, which you may have read about in the British press. Bangladesh is currently in a period of mourning for the more than 50 army officers who were gunned down, together with a number of civilians. Many of our local colleagues have friends or family affected, and it has been a sombre time of security restrictions and condolences.

The newly elected Government is generally agreed to have responded well to the crisis so far. The hope now is that Bangladesh continues its impressive trend, like the motorists on Dhaka’s busy streets, of shrugging off the chaos and moving forwards.

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  1. Comment by Meer Ahsan Habib posted on

    A bit brief but well written which visualise some problems that we are confronted with. Also it shows an impression of hope for change. The main prob that you could add is - most of the things, here in Bangladesh is dhaka centric. Effective decentralisation is not happening here.


  2. Comment by hasan posted on

    well written blog touching the facts rightly. We have a young entrepreneur generation who works well despite the the throttling traffic and scarcity of electricity..thanks to Adam and wish he will write more about Bangladesh and we will know then how a foreign friend thinks about our country..cheers

  3. Comment by Javed Zaman posted on

    It is for the first time Dhaka has all MPs (17 in all or so) from the ruling party, the Awami League. I wonder if the elected representatives realise the magnitude of the responsibility on their shoulders.

    Each and every MP should be aware of the myriad problems of the areas they represent. Traffic, drainage, water supply, electricity, gas, sewerage are the major concerns for the city dwellers.

    For example, today I found out that there is a road that connects the new diversion road parallel to the PMO to the the road that runs across the Bangladesh-China Friendship Centre in Agargaon and passes behind the Ganobhaban into the Mirpur-Shaymoli Road in front of ICVD. This road is spacious and wide enough and could easily be used as a feeder road to relief a fraction of the chaotic traffic congestion palguing the city. But the problem is that there is a 200-300 metre stretch behind the Ganobhaban and the Ministry of Defence annex building that is really in very very bad shape and could easily cause major damage to any kind of vehicle plying through. During the rainy season it has giant pot-holes several feet deep filled with water. I am surprised that no one including the MP or even the high officials who have their offices nearby ever thouht about repairing the broken road to alleviate the sufferings of inhabitants of that area and Dhaka city dwellers at large.

  4. Comment by Milon Paul posted on

    Thanks a lot dear adam Jackson, economics advisor of DFID, Uk for the chance to write you some most important aspects about Bangladesh. I think DFID have been playing morale roll to develop man's skill,health, and reducing poverty by supporting there technics and of course people all over the world are getting very much benefited. In Bangladesh ,I think , the donation of DFID can be used more perfectly if the following logical technics are followed. Such as;
    01. Dhaka a city of slum with 50 lacs people. They come here for many reasons and to reduce pressure on Dhaka and to save humanity housing plan in root level should be taken from now without any delay. This requires all colaboration of Bangladesh govt, all donars countries, ngo., and international organisations and if it requires to creat pressure on the bangladesh govt ,then do so.
    On this regard if you need further information and way of implementation, thenall requires help can be forwarded for your gooself.
    Thanking you, with best of regards
    Milon paul
    for peace calm people of Bangladesh.