As I have previously explored, Bangladesh has some of the world’s most lethal roads. The nation’s motor vehicle-related fatality rate is about fifty times greater than in any Western country. As this piece makes clear, that sad fact is creating a massive drag on the Bangladeshi economy:
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), road traffic injuries cause a loss of about 2% of GDP in Bangladesh, or about £1.2bn annually. This is almost equal to the total foreign aid received in a fiscal year.
Bangladesh currently lacks the enforcement mechanisms necessary to make people obey posted speed limits or buckle their seat belts. So what can be done to reduce the human and economic toll of motoring without asking too much of the state? Fortunately, there are some low-cost solutions that, at the very least, can save hundreds of lives (and millions of dollars) each year:
At the invitation of the ministry of communications, the International Road Assessment Programme (Irap) last year carried out assessments on the Dhaka-Sylhet and the Dhaka-Mymensingh highways, identifying design and maintenance flaws that are contributing to the growing toll of death and disability.
“We don’t want gold-plated roads,” says Greg Smith, Asia-Pacific regional director of Irap, who led the study. “With a scientific approach, sometimes a coat of white paint will save lives.”
According to this IRAP report, simply erecting median barriers on 30 miles’ worth of Dhaka’s highways would prevent 8,400 deaths and injuries every year. Bangladesh’s economy would get five dollars back for every dollar spent on such an investment, and the project could be completed in a matter of weeks assuming some small modicum of official commitment. Tough to imagine a more cost- and time-efficient way to reduce our species’ collective misery quotient.