The reported refusal of the World Bank (WB) to bankroll the entire route of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on the ground of its faulty design is yet another glaring example of lack of coordination among the public sector development agencies and the government's indifference or ineptitude towards making proper use of taxpayers' money. The WB decision makes uncertain the fate of the BRT project that has been limping since its launching in 2010. The cost of the project that has more than doubled due to loopholes in preliminary designs, revision of projects and negligence on the part of the project implementing agency.
The WB following a feasibility study, conducted a few years back, had assured the government of funding the project. But the construction of Moghbazar-Mouchak flyover, in the meanwhile, has made it impossible to execute the project's planned route between city's Mohakhali to Keraniganj. The flyover does not have enough space for keeping dedicated lanes for BRT. To make things worse, another government agency has proposed to build a flyover between Shantinagar and Keraniganj on the planned BRT route. Under the circumstances, it is hard to blame the WB for its decision to downsize its investment in the BRT project that is designed to make the movement of passenger buses faster and hassle-free.
The Mouchak-Maghbazar flyover was planned and built when the BRT plan was very much in place. But the agency -- the local government engineering department (LGED) -- that built the flyover ignored the BRT plan. The Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA), the agency responsible for implementation of BRT, under the control of the ministry of road transport and bridges, perhaps, could not press its case strongly or its pleadings went unheeded.
Many major cities in Asia and other continents have introduced BRT to ensure faster movement of passenger buses. Compared to cost-intensive flyovers or expressways, the BRT is a low-cost solution to traffic problems with passenger buses. The BRT and the planned introduction of limited number of bus companies under a centrally managed system together might make the commuting by bus relatively comfortable. But the lack of coordination, a deep-rooted problem troubling the operations of government agencies, has emerged as a major roadblock.
Fortunately, the WB has not dropped its plan to bankroll the project in its entirety. Given the project's importance, it has agreed to provide $500 million for the execution of BRT between Shahjalal International Airport point to Mohakhali. The relevant agency should now expedite its work on the project and sit with other agencies concerned to find alternative routes for the BRT up to Keraniganj. The country cannot afford high-cost solutions to the traffic problem that has been exacting a huge physical and economic toll. It should seek low-cost but efficient solutions. And it should be kept in mind that coordination among public sector agencies is a precondition for efficient execution of projects. Volumes have been said and written on coordination issue, but to no effect. Ensuring coordination among public sector agencies should actually be a routine exercise for a government worth its name.
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