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     Volume 7 Issue 16 | April 18, 2008 |

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Bridging the Two Bengals after Four Decades
The government announced in June of last year that the Dhaka-Kolkata train service would start functioning. But that never took place. And the Dhaka-Kolkata non-stop journey from Dhaka Cantonment station to Chitpur station in Kolkata through Darshana border finally started from April 14 of this year, the Bangla New Year 1415.
The Moitree [friendship] Express has a capacity of 418 passengers from Dhaka and that from Kolkata 366 seats. The 538km journey -- 418km in Bangladesh and 120km in India -- takes 13 to 14 hours.
The rail connection between Kolkata and Dhaka was snapped during the 1965 Indo-Pak conflict when Bangladesh was part of Pakistan. However, India and Bangladesh in 1996 resumed direct bus service linking Kolkata and Dhaka.
This is very good news for Bangalis on both sides of the borders. A large number of transactions are carried out by businessmen from both sides of the border and travelling to and fro by plane is too expensive while the bus journey is cumbersome for many. The inaugural journey, however, was carrying less than a hundred passengers, as there was not much publicity about it. But once the service is amply publicised, more and more people are bound to take advantage of it and both countries will benefit enormously from the revival of this service.

More than a Traffic Jam
Like every year, this year as well, Baisakhi celebrations were accompanied with hot and humid weather. People beautifully dressed in colours of white and red, at one point, were covered in the face paint which was melting all over them thanks to the scorching heat. To make things worse, people also had to face the pollution in the city -- dirty lakes, garbage filled streets and the stuffy air -- an issue that is being ignored by the authorities.
It seems that the pollution level in Dhaka has worsened over the years. Thanks to the increased number of vehicles used on the streets, especially ones with faulty engines, the city's air is filled with various kinds of toxic pollutants, which are being released in the air. A major cause behind the release of a large amount of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide and other lead particles is the exhaust fumes released from faulty engines especially those run on diesel. These gases when inhaled are harmful for people and cause all kinds of illnesses from headaches, nausea to breathing problems. Long hours of traffic jams only exacerbate the commuters' agony. Statistics say that every year, motorised vehicles increase by ten percent in Dhaka city alone. Clearly, if the government, environmental organisations and concerned individuals, do not approach this problem as soon as possible, a decade from now we might have to face something worse than mere traffic jams on the streets.

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