Over the last few years the transportation problem of Dhaka City has visibly been deteriorating steadily. Citizens constantly complain about the unbearable twin problems of traffic jam and air pollution. Democracywatch decided to address this problem through an opinion poll covering around eight hundred households randomly selected from several purposively selected neighbourhoods of the city, representatives of middle and lower income areas.
The questions asked focused mainly on three issues: (a) the nature of the problem as perceived by the surveyed residents, (b) their understanding about the causes of these problems and (c) their recommendations on solutions to these perceived problems.
Some preliminary results from this survey were presented at a workshop, which was participated by persons associated with the formulation and implementation of traffic policies, rules and programmes. This Draft Final Report benefits from valuable discussion and comments received at the workshop.
The methodology of this survey is explained below in brief. It is easy to see that the study extended beyond a standard opinion poll and entered the arena of investigative research in seeking some
explanations to perceptions as well as behaviour.
The findings are presented mainly in the form of self-explanatory tables with some introductory highlights and conclusions.
A further extension of the survey is currently being completed to cover the very poor and the rich categories of residents as was recommended by several participants at the workshop mentioned earlier.B. Methodology
During the round of the opinion poll the main focus was on the middle and lower income population of Dhaka city. Therefore, the sample was drawn from 30 purposively selected neighbourhoods which are generally recognised as middle and lower income areas. In each of these areas a systematic random sample of about 26 households were selected, giving a total sample of 775 households. In the event of any householdâ€™s refusal to give interview which happened on average in one in four cases, the nearest household willing to be interviewed was chosen. Usually the household head responded. In case of his absence any other responsible adult capable of responding to the questions was interviewed. Interviews were conducted on the basis of a pre-tested questionnaire. Each interview took about 20 minutes. Fourteen investigators were engaged. The reference period for the survey was 21-27 October, 2000. Data was edited, coded and computerised. Analysis was mostly done electronically by using FoxPro and SPSS. Some tables were done manually.C. Selected Findings
I. Perceptions on major problems
â€¢ Altogether 37 problems were mentioned. They were given a score on a scale of 1-5 to indicate their perceived seriousness. Each of these problems was then ranked according to the total score given to it by the analytical group under consideration.
â€¢ Not surprisingly, traffic jam topped the list, followed by hijacking/terrorism as no. 2, load shedding as no. 3, environmental pollution as no. 4 and water crisis as no. 5.
â€¢ Surprisingly, hartals were way down among the bottom 5 (at no. 33), reflecting possibly both a shortness of public memory as well as a lack of concern or an acquired immunity at the mass level in respect of hartals.
â€¢ Changes in public perception about the seriousness of problems in civic life was also evidenced by the placement of load shedding at no. 3, which would undoubtedly have been put as the no. 1 problem about 2 years ago.
â€¢ Except for problems no. 1 and no. 2 there was variation in the rank order of the perceived problems based on income, occupation, education and gender. For example, environmental pollution was given more importance by the richer people compared to load shedding. Likewise, unemployment was more of a problem for the poorer categories.
â€¢ Interestingly, poor drainage was not mentioned in the list of 5 most important problems in the city. Clearly, for all the sampled respondents, there were far too many other problems to enter the list of 5.II. Causes of traffic jam
â€¢ Narrow roads, broken roads and unplanned repairs appeared as the 3 main causes of traffic jam. This again is the result of asking the respondents to name only 3 main causes.
â€¢ When asked about the contribution of different road users to the traffic jam problem, the rickshaw wallahs were pointed out as a major culprit: 66 per cent thought they made very high contribution, while another 5 per cent thought they made moderate contribution.
â€¢ The truck drivers were next in line with about 50 per cent considering their contribution as moderate to very high.
â€¢ There were no significant variations in respect of the above findings between genders, incomes and occupations.III. Recommended measures for solving traffic jams
â€¢ There were more recommendations on the software (i.e. legal framework, planning, management, etc) than on the hardware side (i.e. brick and mortar stuff).
â€¢ The single most recommended measure was one way roads (28 per cent). Interestingly, the richer and the professional households were less vocal about it, while the labourers did not mention it at all. The demand came mainly from the businessmen and lower income households.
â€¢ The next most recommended (22 per cent) measure was to improve and enforce the traffic law. If one adds to that the recommendation of establishment and enforcement of sound parking rules (11 per cent), legal reform and enforcement emerges as the most recommended (33 per cent) measure.
â€¢ There was broad unanimity in this regards between the genders, incomes and most occupations except the professionals for whom flyovers were the second most mentioned remedy.