Tuesday, 11 October 2011

‘Safer, cheaper communications

Rights activists and environmentalists on Tuesday urged the government for preparing an integrated communication policy, focusing on the expansion and modernisation of the country’s rail and waterways. Pointing out the better safety and cost-effectiveness of rail and water transportation compared to that of road transportation, the activists in a views exchanging meeting at the National Press Club pressed forward a 19-point charter of demands that include increasing manpower, locomotives and coaches in the country’s ailing railway sector and effectively maintaining the novelty of water routes.

The speakers also stressed the need for strict administrative control over the road transport sector to ensure that unfit vehicles and untrained drivers are not allowed on the roads in order to address the increasing trend of road-accidents over the recent years.
Maruf Rahman of the Work for Better Bangladesh Trust in his keynote paper said, ‘The cost of transporting a passenger by road has recently increased to Tk. 1.35 per kilometre, whereas the costs of rail and water transportation remain the same since 2007 at Tk. 0.38 and Tk. 0.42 respectively.’

‘Safer, cheaper communications

Moreover, for the transportation of the same quantity of traffic units, environmental pollution by cars and lorries are measured to be 8.3 and 30 times higher than the rail mode, he added.
But quite inexplicably, said Maruf, the allocation from the Annual Development Programme for the rail and water transport sector had been reduced from 3.11 and 3.76 per cent to 2 and 0.54 per cent respectively, whereas the allocation for the road sector had been increased from 5.13 to 8.72 per cent between 1990 and 2007 fiscals.

Pointing out the decreasing trend of agricultural land due to road construction in the country, Abu Nasr Khan, convenor of Save the Environment Movement (POBA), said, ‘If the expansion of the roads and highways could be reduced by expanding the railways, there would be less stress on agricultural lands that is a major concern in our country to ensure food security.’

Abu Nasr also criticised subsequent governments for falling in the ‘vicious cycle of projects and loans’ as per the recommendation of World Bank and International Monetary Fund that had only facilitated, said Nasr, ‘The international automobile companies with profit, while depriving the poor and the middle-income groups of their citizen rights of safe and affordable communication.’
Professor AKM Abul Kalam, general secretary of Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP), stressed that rail and water transports should be prioritised than the road transport in order to lay out a sustainable and integrated planning in the communication sector to meet the ever increasing transportation demand of the rising population as well as the rising Gross Domestic Product in the country.

Presided over by Ikram Ahmed, chairman of Families United Against Road Accident, the meeting was also addressed by Mohidul Haque Khan, executive director of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, BIP member Khondaker M. Ansar Hossain and Professor Nazrul Islam of Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, among others.

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