Despite being one of 46 countries included in the current U.N. List of Least Developed Countries, Bangladesh has experienced strong economic growth in recent years. In 2021, the country’s GDP growth rate stood at 6.9%. The construction of the first metro railway in Bangladesh has the potential to boost the economy, improve quality of life and reduce poverty among the 35 million people who live below the poverty line as of 2022.
Dhaka Metro Rail
Bangladesh’s first metro railway line is undergoing development in the capital city of Dhaka. The government-owned company Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL) was incorporated in June 2013 to oversee the rail network’s construction. The company aims to “reduce traffic congestion” by establishing a “state-of-the-art public transport system” that is “environment-friendly” and “time-saving.”
The Time-bound Action Plan 2030 that the Government of Bangladesh formulated outlines that six Mass Rapid Transit train routes spanning 128.741 kilometers across Dhaka and its adjoining neighborhoods will undergo construction by 2030. The first phase of Line 6 has already reached completion and opened in December 2022, carrying 3,857 passengers on day one of operation. By the time the project reaches completion, a projected 103 stations will be running, 52 of which will be underground. A loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency will fund the majority of the $5.2 billion project and the Government of Bangladesh will fund the remainder of the costs.
Reducing Congestion and Pollution
Bangladesh continues to experience high levels of population growth annually, with a current 2023 population of about 170 million. According to the CIA World Fact Book, the population of the industrialized city of Dhaka has grown from about 21.7 million to an estimated 23.2 million in 2023.
Increasing job opportunities in Dhaka have been attracting an increasing number of people to Bangladesh’s metropolitan capital, contributing to congestion and overpopulation in the area. The metro rail line will help to reduce congestion and pollution and improve the city’s air quality, which is currently among the worst in the world. Although transport accounts for slightly less than 10% of Bangladesh’s greenhouse gas emissions, carbon emissions and traffic-related pollution are major concerns and the metro rail will curb this by allowing for more environmentally friendly travel.
The electricity-powered metro rail will also reduce both the likelihood of traffic accidents and travel costs, affording commuters an economical and efficient alternative to traveling by bus or car. According to a World Bank report, people lose around 3.2 working hours daily in Dhaka due to congestion and slow driving speeds. To help alleviate potential congestion around train stations, experts advise that a wider network of efficient public transport, including improved bus services, undergo development in tandem with the new rail line.
Impact on the Bangladesh Labor Market
The metro railway in Bangladesh will have several benefits for Bangladesh’s labor market, the first of which is increased labor mobility. Labor mobility refers to the level of ease with which workers can move between jobs (within an economy) or to different areas (into other economies) to get to work. The development of an efficient public transport system in Dhaka will increase the mobility of Bangladeshi workers, making a wider variety of jobs accessible to a larger number of people, especially those in remote, rural areas.
The construction of the rail line itself will likely create around 12,000 jobs for engineers in Bangladesh in addition to generating jobs for the staff who will operate and maintain the metro stations, trains and parking facilities. The construction will also benefit local businesses, such as the Bangladesh-based company McDonald Steel Building Products, which produced the roof trusses that builders are using for the train stations. The metro will benefit smaller businesses by providing a new market for the sale of goods and provisions in and around stations.
The first metro railway in Bangladesh will have several positive environmental, social and economic effects on the country, particularly in the city of Dhaka, where it will operate. By providing a more economical and efficient mode of transportation, the metro rail will help create a more productive and mobile workforce while improving workers’ quality of life. Travel will be more environmentally friendly, traffic congestion and pollution will reduce and newly-generated jobs will boost the national economy while reducing poverty rates. A symbol of the economic development that Bangladesh has seen in recent years, the metro rail will help to promote continued economic growth into the future.
– Sophie Sadera