It is scandalous that the government has still not drawn up a new action plan for road safety, even though the mandate of the last one expired two years ago. Although a draft National Strategic Action Plan for Road Safety 2021-2024 was prepared over a year ago, it has yet to be approved. As this newspaper reported on April 3, 2022, the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) submitted a draft to a National Road Safety Council (NRSC) meeting on February 18 last year. During the meeting, chaired by the Minister of Road Transport and Bridges, Obaidul Quader, a committee was formed to review and finalize the project within a month. Even though the committee submitted its report, after updating the draft, the plan apparently could not be sanctioned as no NRSC meeting has been held since then.
At a time when road accidents and the number of their victims have exploded, why are the authorities in such little hurry to draw up an action plan for road safety? A total of 5,088 people were killed in 5,472 road accidents in 2021, 30% more than the previous year, according to a police report. This inexcusable delay on the part of officials shows how little they care about road safety issues and, to some extent, the lives of ordinary people.
As recently as March 29 this year, the World Bank approved $358 million for a project to help Bangladesh improve road safety and reduce the number of road traffic fatalities and injuries in some high-risk highways and district roads. How is it that, when acquiring these funds, we do not have a comprehensive action plan for this purpose? Before funding the project, the World Bank said in January that despite the existence of different bodies to ensure road safety in Bangladesh, the number of road accident deaths refuses to drop as these bodies are not held accountable. . That no one has been held accountable for the failure to develop a new road safety action plan — which successive governments have been developing since 1997 — for two years is another example.
We have heard senior government officials repeatedly make big road safety promises, particularly in the wake of the student movement for safer roads, and then fail to consistently deliver on them. We therefore demand that the authorities immediately draw up the new action plan and take comprehensive measures to provide safer roads for people.