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DVB Debate: How to solve Rangoon’s traffic congestion

The increasing number of cars in Burma is causing severe traffic jams and congestion. Now experts are trying to find a solution to the traffic problem, which also addresses the environmental situation.

This week’s panel consists of: environmentalist and chairman of Forest Resource Development and Conservation Association U Ohn; the vice-chairman of Myanmar Engineering Society, Aung Myint; and editor and chairman of Yangon Media Group, Ko Ko.

“Over the next four or five years the population in Burma will increase”, said U Ohn. “That means the number of cars will also increase. More traffic problems will arise. Consequently, from an environmental point of view, the city of Rangoon will not be worth living in.”

Motorcycles have been banned in the city centre by the government for a decade, but some say they might be a better alternative for both the traffic and the pollution. Another solution would be to improve the existing public transportation. Today there are more than 300 bus lines that all comes through downtown Rangoon.

“We need to modernise the current public transportation system”, said Ko Ko. By that, I don’t mean that the whole public transportation system now in use needs to be withdrawn, but I mean it’s time for it to be reformed.”

Aung Myint suggested a shuttle system from the outskirts of town to reduce the traffic in the central parts. He also points out the government is developing a BRT (bus rapid transit) system in collaboration with the Japanese agency JICA which could be implemented around 2015. However, Ko Ko argued that they shouldn’t rush this project. With no transparency or open tender system they risk corruption.

One problem, according to Ko Ko, is street vendors blocking roads, causing even worse traffic. But Aung Myint said many countries have solved this problem by creating walking-only streets, or banning cars at certain hours of the day.

“How effective is our government and the committee in managing the traffic situation, really?” Aung Myint said. “Yes they’re working. But the result is not effective.”

“To be honest, there is no working traffic management system in our country, nor is there a traffic engineering system or transportation engineers”, meant Ko Ko. We just keep complaining about the traffic jams. The problem has not been resolved, because these roles cannot yet be conceived.

The main problem with the traffic seems to be the management of the traffic and the condition of the streets. However, as U Ohn said, experts have to point out to the responsible people what needs to be done. But many experts are still afraid of speaking out because they are worried about being seen as hostile towards the authorities.

Next week on DVB Debate: How can Burma’s health care system be improved?

You can join the debate and watch the full programme in Burmese at www.dvbdebate.com

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