With Japan's approval of a $2.1 billion soft loan for Bangladesh's first metro rail system, the country's second largest infrastructure project after Padma Bridge appears to be on the anvil.
After the delay over change of route, which may have at one stage irked the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) and led to the government's appointing a consultant, all of which has resulted in the cost of the project increasing from $1.7 to $2.7 billion, the project is finally getting on track. An agreement expected to be signed next month and construction to begin next June, to be completed by the year 2017.
The metro rail is to operate every three minutes and carry 60,000 passengers an hour, which is expected to significantly reduce the amount of traffic congestion in the capital. With Dhaka's population increasing by a few thousand every day, not to mention the number of vehicles plying the streets, with no new roads or space to build them, the metro rail seems just about the only way to counter the capital's horrendous traffic problem. Needless to say, while funding has seemed to be the major issue thus far, the upcoming agreement process, construction and, finally, the systematic running of the metro rail for commuters across the capital will decide the fate of the city's traffic system. So far, Dhaka's traffic has only added to the city dwellers' stress, along with air and noise pollution, and easing up the traffic system and the city dwellers' commute will, we hope, provide some respite from what has become an everyday struggle for residents of the mega city.
We are grateful for Japan's gesture topped up by patience with the rather slow spade work. We hope that the project will now develop with speed and efficiency on both sides, be completed by the projected deadline and ease the sufferings of the capital's millions of residents.