At different parts of the city, we see traffic lights going on and off. However, the drivers probably do not see them. Indeed, vehicular movement does not depend on the traffic lights at all. Or else, we would not have to see vehicles crossing the signals despite being shown a red light.
These lights were installed as part of an automated traffic control system. However, the reality is somewhat different. Vehicles in this city move or stop when a traffic policeman waves them to move or stop. Some drivers are so unruly that often policemen have to brandish a stick to make them stop. Such tendency of the drivers not only results in traffic congestion, but also causes accidents very often.
In the second decade of the 21st century, the world runs on an automated traffic control system. It has made vehicular movement more organised and brought down the number of accidents. However, our cities are still running in the age old system. Not that we cannot afford this system. We do have people to help us in this regard, too.
In 2000, installation of automated traffic lights at 70 intersections of the city began as part of a World Bank backed project. It ended in 2008, but the traffic police kept maintaining the order by the old system -- waving hands or by making gestures.
In November 2009, the traffic lights were used in 50 intersections only for three-four days. The lights have almost gone out of order for lack of maintenance and no usage.
A number of projects worth billions have been undertaken in the recent past to set up automated or semi-automated traffic control system. The Tk 700 million splashed on such projects have been complete waste. Since the drivers do not have any idea about the system, it creates a tailback when automated system is used. Besides, it does not make any sense to man some parts of the city with the automated system while the other part is run by the 'hand wave' system.
The traffic lights were installed by the city corporation authorities while the traffic is controlled by the Dhaka Metropolitan Police's traffic control department. These two organisation have absolutely no coordination between them. It was once decided that the city corporation authorities would hand over the responsibilities to the DMP, but that did not happen either. DMP said they could not make it happen because of lack of engineers in their organisation.
This problem needs to be addressed immediately. The DMP has to maintain the automated traffic control system and stop the age old practice of letting the vehicles move as per their hand waves.