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Dhaka town planner Professor Nazrul Islam
talks to the BBC's Alastair Lawson about the problems with the traffic police
 real 28k

Thursday, 3 May, 2001, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
Bangladesh army on traffic duty
Dhaka street scene
Dhaka is one the world's fastest growing cities
By Alastair Lawson in Dhaka

The authorities in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, have deployed the army to help the police control the city's traffic.

Bangladeshi soldiers
Soldiers are regarded as more trustworthy
With a population now exceeding nine million, Dhaka is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, but it lacks the infrastructure to cope with the corresponding increase in traffic.

There is rarely a moment of the day or night when Dhaka's roads aren't clogged with traffic.

Recent heavy rainfall has made congestion even worse.

Traffic police play an essential role in keeping the city moving, and are found at most junctions and roundabouts.

But now motorists and rickshaw drivers are witnessing the unusual sight of soldiers in uniform also directing the traffic.

Bribery

According to a report due to be released on Friday by one of the country's most distinguished town planners, Professor Nazrul Islam, the reason is because some traffic police are taking bribes from drivers wanting to jump queues and park illegally.

He says the police are under-manned, poorly trained and not serious about improving traffic management.

The police have so far not commented on the deployment of the army, but they have long maintained that they work long hours in difficult and dangerous conditions.

Professor Islam says that troops command more respect from motorists and are likely to be less corrupt.

The soldiers themselves appear to enjoy the challenge, in a city where red traffic lights are routinely ignored and where there is no highway code.

Pollution

Dhaka has one of the worst pollution problems created by traffic fumes in the world, and respiratory diseases are commonplace.

Studies by aid agencies have revealed that children living in the city centre have dangerously high levels of lead in their blood.

But with a general election looming neither the governing Awami League nor the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party will be willing to implement radical measures.

Road users - including Dhaka's 300,000 rickshaw drivers - all form influential political lobbies which neither party will want to ostracise.

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