Bangladesh deploys army to control snarled traffic

Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:16am EDT
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DHAKA (Reuters Life!) - Troops on the streets of the Bangladeshi capital are usually a sign of emergency but the soldiers manning Dhaka's intersections from Tuesday are only trying to ease the city's notorious traffic congestion.

Authorities decided to use the army for the first time to help the traffic police, who often struggle to control the snarled traffic of this city of around 12 million people.

Congestion has become even worse than usual ahead of the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, which is due to start on Sunday, and which will be followed by the Durga Puja Hindu festival, as shoppers throng to malls and markets until midnight to buy festive goods.

"We all are suffering. Even the prime minister's motorcade got stuck in the jam," Local Government Minister Syed Ashraful Islam told parliament.

"Traffic has been getting worse everyday," added a senior police officer who declined to be named.

"Police really cannot control the mad rush of vehicles and commuters defying traffic rules."

In addition to the army deployment, authorities have introduced different timings for schools, offices and banks to avoid the twice-a-day rush hour.

On average, 50,000 cars and 3,000 buses run on Dhaka's streets each day, in addition to nearly a million rickshaws. Officials say the congestion causes a $2.18 billion loss to country's economy annually.

(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Writing by Anis Ahmed, editing by Miral Fahmy)

<p>An army personnel controls traffic at the Farmgate commercial area in Dhaka, September 15, 2009. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj</p>