Dhaka needs green public transport

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The world is now looking to Glasgow, the host city of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference or COP26, for the commitments and actions needed to contain catastrophic climate change and save the earth. The expectation of the two-week conference, attended by world leaders and policymakers, is that the world will finally get a set of reasonable action plans to protect the planet and people. A number of proposals are on the table to reduce carbon emissions. Limiting global warming to 1.5 ° C is the ultimate goal, agreed six years ago at the Paris summit in 2015. Countries have in fact agreed to keep the increase in global average temperature “well below” of 2.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and continue their efforts to limit the temperature rises even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. ” Thus, 1.5 ° C becomes the crucial benchmark for containing global warming.

A critical step to achieve the goal or reduce global warming is the introduction of green public transport in different countries of the world. This can be a very ambitious task, not impossible. Even a decent public transport system can make a significant contribution to reducing carbon emissions in a heavily polluted city like Dhaka. The key is to fully recognize the need for public transport as the basis of urban mobility. Sadly, Dhaka and many other cities around the world are lagging behind in this regard. Transport policies and infrastructure projects in these cities do not reflect the need for functional, efficient and inexpensive public transport.

In Dhaka, as in the rest of the country, there is a growing need for better and safer ways to move people and goods. Despite the construction of new roads and highways across the country, the main roads are mostly congested with traffic. There is also an increase in the number of road fatalities and injuries due to reckless driving coupled with disobeying traffic rules by drivers, commuters and pedestrians. As public transport is still insufficient and dangerous, commuters depend on private and small vehicles such as cars, automatic rickshaws running on CNG, motorcycles and three-wheelers running on battery power. Non-motorized rickshaws are also present. All of this causes even more chaos on the roads and traffic jams.

Although Dhaka city is suitable for public transport by bus, there is little attention in this regard. Buses and minibuses with scuffed and worn out exteriors and terrible interiors like narrow entrances and seats, dirty floors and broken windows dominate the roads. Thousands of daily commuters have no choice but to travel on these unclean, polluted and congested buses. Air pollution from these unfit and semi-fit buses has more and more impacts on health. At least a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in Dhaka come from these buses.

Thus, replacing buses with decent and green buses is now the order of the day. The new buses should be spacious enough to accommodate more commuters without small congestions inside with a clean interior. This is the first condition for making public transport decent. Currently, a few low-floor buses, operated by the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC), are an example in this regard.

To make public transport green, battery-powered or electric buses are the ultimate solution. There is still no progress in this direction except a project to introduce 50 battery buses in the Bas Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor which is still under construction. As the BRT is unlikely to provide the optimum benefit, policymakers need to give serious thought to the gradual introduction of green buses across the city. In India, Delhi will acquire around 2,000 electric public transport buses by the end of the year. Dhaka should also encourage two-wheelers and electric four-wheelers.

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