Traffic [Archives:2007/1083/Viewpoint]

September 6 2007

In 1996, Yemen Times had an interview with the Director General of the Traffic Authority in the capital Sana'a. Colonel Yahya Zaher, the Director General then, explained the authority's difficult job especially regarding mini buses known as “Dababs”, and weak infrastructure.

Last week more than a decade since the 1996 interview, Yemen Times had another interview with the Director General of Traffic Authority. This time it is colonel Yahya Shubail, who complained of minibuses and the weak infrastructure.

In fact, in the current interview, the traffic authority is suffering from many more difficulties than it used to in the past. However, the idea is that the authority knew what was going wrong, knew what must be done 11 years ago, but still nothing happened.

In the 1996 interview colonel Zaher talked about a new project to create multi-storey parking to accommodate the increasing number of cars. Eleven years after, that project is still in paper, and it is not the fault of the traffic administration. It seems their projects are not in the state's priority list, which is a big mistake.

In the current interview, the director general talks about a 400 million dollars project that would solve all the problems of traffic in Sana'a, yet this project has not secured its funding until now. Apparently Minister of Interior is working to get the project started from the national budget and donor contribution.

The number of field traffic wardens in 1996 was 1019, today although the number of vehicles has tripled; the number of traffic wardens working in the field is less than 1500. They don't have health insurance, they are underpaid, and the number of new enrollers is diminishing by the day.

Traffic is a concern of everyone who lives or wishes to stay in Sana'a, even if for a short duration. A better traffic system would encourage investment, would increase productivity, and would decrease expenditure on health care especially on diseases and complications caused by pollution or accidents.

A better traffic system would ensure that all are equal in front of the law, whether it is an army vehicle or that of a VIP. I know of a friend whose family prevented her from driving a car because they feared what might happen to her on the road, and they were talking from first hand experience.

“Everybody blames the traffic authority for what is going on in the streets, they don't remember that we are not the only people responsible: There are the reckless drivers, and irresponsible pedestrians. There are the road-unworthy car owners. There is the Public Works Ministry responsible for road maintenance and traffic lights and signs. There is the Ministry of Defence responsible for distributing army cars and careless officers. And there is the Customs Authority that allows the entry of road unworthy vehicles into the country,” complained Colonel Shubail.

I agree with him, instead of pointing fingers, it is time we become responsible for our acts and help make the traffic authority's job easier and our city better.