Thousands of mini as well as micro-buses in the capitalRelentless traffic measures needed [Archives:2003/641/Health]

June 12 2003

By Adnan Abdulaziz
For the Yemen Times

One cannot drive through the roads of Sana'a without a road map because the maximum speed is naught at most junctions.
This made me reach out for the famous “Road Map” assuming that it will guide me and so many other fools like me through Sana'a murky streets.
I couldn't comprehend it, because its interpretation is buried deep in Bush's mind, and I promptly threw it out of the window.
Imagine you are driving zero speed or less, and breathing in fumes emitted from the tailpipes of vehicles, especially diesel ones and whenever you come to a halt you start inhaling and exhaling huge amounts of these gases. I can see what are called “dababs”, microbuses and minibuses, in their thousands, and I wonder if they ever reach their destination and I even ask myself “Can they provide sustenance to their owners”. God is merciful.
Actually, what causes congestion on our streets is the adamant resistance of “dababs” to stop parallel to the kerb. Halting in whatever way they like, cross-wise, diagonally, on their sides, laterally and also upside down is the order of the day, thus asserting to all that the street is owned by their fathers and nobody can do anything. No matter how long you beep, honk, hoot, or blow the horn they will not give a damn and finish their “business” and speed-along. Loitering nearby and looking like scarecrows are the miserable policemen with their hands out, handing out traffic violation tickets to “dabab” drivers. The effect of these tickets is to whet the appetites of the “dabab” drivers. Above all, it is the incapability of the transport authorities to set a maximum limit to the number of “dabab” on the roads, which makes them multiply like bacteria.
This is happening all over the country and in all our cities. Traffic rules and regulations are being flagrantly disobeyed. Vehicle safety laws are non-existent. The authority of the traffic policeman is a dream. Roads are used by all. They should not be a means of death caused by noise or atmospheric pollution or road unworthy vehicles. The authorities should not allow every Tom, Dick and Harry who has a little money and wishes to buy a “dabab”, a microbus or a minibus to buy one and start expending the extremely noxious fumes into the air which we breathe and commences killing us ever so slowly. For god's sake, tell me how can we live with this carcinogenic pollution? Certainly, the first persons to get affected by these fumes are the drivers of these “dababs” themselves.
Does not the responsibility fall upon the authorities – health, traffic, and transport, of protecting these dumb, maniacal, suicidal, murderous drivers from killing themselves and killing us all. I do not think that giant computers can conjure pictures of our cities five to ten years from now and if they are capable of doing so then the pictures will definitely be horrifying. If six years ago the number of “dababs” on the roads was about ten thousand then what is their number now? “Dabab” drivers show no courtesy or politeness towards others and care less about the rights of other road users, young or old. They only see standing in front of them a potential passenger who will pay fifteen or twenty rials at the end of the ride. How they maneuver the vehicle and reach that passenger is worth watching. They will blow their horns, flash their lights and getting closer, they will start yelling their destinations. Watching that is pathetic.

Traffic measures needed
Only God knows why motor cyclists remove the silencers and sound mufflers from their motor cycles, contributing immensely to the noise and air pollution. Motor cycles should be banned permanently from the streets. A massive program should be initiated on the radio and television to educate the masses to the necessity of understanding traffic rules and regulations, traffic laws and rights of road users.
Television films describing driving etiquette and simple motor mechanics are to be shown from those countries whose driving considered a model to be emulated. The importance of the many road signs and yellow and white lines should be printed in booklets and be mass distributed nationwide and sold to all drivers, compulsory. Strict driving tests should be taken by future and potential drivers. Health tests for the eyes, ears, nerves, relax actions, psychological and mental health should not be taken lightly. Road unworthy vehicles should be declined r renewal of annual licenses and sold for scrap. We have think seriously, quickly and earnestly to organize traffic on our roads. Traffic rules must be applied strictly and mercilessly with no compunction or remorse. The army should be deployed to assist the police, using force if it comes to that, until every citizen of Yemen can say “Yes, traffic rules are implemented in this country; the roads are safe to drive on”. For offenders, jail sentences should be meted out with full pressure of the law, submitting to no one. The untouchables of government officials, members of parliament, their drivers, children, and all should be seriously questioned. The arrogance of Sheikhs, their henchmen, and stooges must be stopped. Traffic offenders and violators should be made to pay on the spot fines, not bribes, to honest Traffic Magistrates, under police protection of course.

Comprehensive study also needed
To ease the pressure of migration from the country to Sana'a and other big cities, a study has to be made to provide short and long term loans to buy agricultural and farm machinery. This means that villagers can go back to their villages and start agricultural work on their land farms.
Machinery and equipment to dig wells must be included in the loan amounts. This will make the villagers live off their lands, become self-sufficient and independent. This will start the process of reverse migration and ease the congestion, pollution and the thousands of “dababs” of the street s of Sana'a and our other cities. We also have to make plans to transport people in our cities in larger groups, using the smallest number of bigger buses and coaches. This method is used in most countries of the world; some of the most backward countries use big buses and coaches instead of “dababs”. Do not tell me we are the most backward of all! The command and control of the traffic policemen must be reinstated. The dignity of this civil servant should be upheld. It is our right to breathe clean and fresh air.
Pollution affects the rich and the poor. We all breathe the same air and use the same roads. This environmental disease, in all its forms, is knocking at our doors. Separate measures have to be taken immediately to protect the health, well being, and mental stability of all drivers, pedestrians, and road users.