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We need discipline to beat traffic jams

29th February 2012
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Editorial Cartoon

One of the most conspicuous hurdles to improvement of the economy is poor infrastructure, which in the case of Dar es Salaam has been a hindrance to efficient flow of traffic.

Dar’s traffic jams are well documented for their effect on work in factories and offices and deliveries of goods and services.

A survey conducted by the Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI) in 2010 established that traffic jams eat up to 20 per cent of annual profits of most businesses.

In the same vein, the Chief Executive officer of the Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit (Dart) project, Cosmas Takule, has in the past been quoted saying businesses and other institutions in Dar es Salaam city incur about 4bn/- in losses every day due to persistent traffic jams.

The loss is mainly incurred through decreased productivity as workers and entrepreneurs report late at work or miss appointments, fuel wastage, and late delivery of merchandise.

Schoolchildren have also been victims, finding themselves trapped in jams, well after class time.

Unlike in the past when the problem was seen as mainly of narrow roads, experts are now talking of the need to look closely at urban planning, especially when traffic jams are moving to other major urban centres.

This means that despite the many forums which have been looking into the problem, focusing mainly on Dar es Salaam, we are yet to dent the problem and that if anything it is spreading out.

That is why we view with suspicion any meeting regarding the problem, wondering whether it has anything new to offer in solving the problem.

This is not to belittle the efforts being made by the stakeholders. We know only too well and appreciate that while the experts have proposed solutions, one of the major hurdles to implementation has been scarcity of resources.

Besides the Dart project, whose implementation has begun, we are aware of the proposed fly-overs and the widening of some of the roads to name but a few of the proposed solutions.

But there is an element that has in the past not figured prominently in many of the forums, namely the role of the urban planners.

They are now being challenged to ensure that they build infrastructures which would eliminate traffic congestion so as to save the income eaten up by traffic jams.

One of the stakeholders rightly goes further to urge them to make sure that they put up organised infrastructures that would ensure the problem of congestion is solved once and for all.

He is calling for better urban planning, noting among other problems the concentration of major commercial and government services in city centres and the poor conditions of feeder roads.

We know how true this is. The problem of haphazard building, defying set plans, is surely one of the factors which has brought Dar es Salaam City to where it is today, groaning under debilitating jams.

While challenging the planners, we should not forget to tell the administrators to respect and enforce the set plans, instead of letting people tamper with them, putting up structure wherever they like with impunity.

Without discipline, we cannot expect to beat the traffic jams.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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