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It is possible to reduce road accidents by ensuring a safe walking environment

According to research by Accident Research Institute of BUET, 20 percent of road accidents in the country occur in Dhaka metropolitan area and most of the victims of these accidents are pedestrians. The recent deaths of students in road accidents have become a cause of concern for the people of the country. The number and severity of accidents is increasing due to excess motor vehicles on the road, excessive speed of vehicles, lack of pedestrian friendly environment etc. Just like road accidents, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are also increasing in an alarming rate. NCDs like heart disease, cancer, and stroke account for 67% of the total deaths in Bangladesh and treatment of such diseases is very expensive and long term. By reducing the use of motor vehicles and ensuring a safe and comfortable environment for students to walk to school, the number of road accidents can be reduced, besides the risk of NCDs will also be reduced as the need of physical activity will be met. Speakers opined such at the workshop titled 'Walk to school to control non-communicable diseases' jointly organized by South Point School and College, Malibagh Branch, Pallima Sangsad, Nagorik Odhikar Shangrakkhan Forum (NASF), and Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust at Khilgaon on December 9, 2021, at 10.00am.

Gaous Pearee, Director, Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust, in her welcome speech said that, among the South Asian countries, the rate of non-communicable diseases in Bangladesh are increasing rapidly. According to a study 97 per cent of people in Bangladesh between age of 15 and over are at risk of at least one no communicable disease. NCDs are serious public health problems but preventable. This requires a change in lifestyle. Walking to school can meet the demand of physical activity as well as helps to reduce air pollution by reducing the use of motor vehicles.

Shahnaz Begum, Vice Principal, English Medium, South Point School and College, said, many students of our school walk to school but they have to face various problems including accidents due to broken roads and sidewalks, lack of zebra crossings and lack of safe walking environment. I hope that after today's workshop, the students of South Point School and College will become advocates to ensure a safe walking environment.

Hafizur Rahman Moyna, president of the NASOF said, through walking we can have several benefits including, controlling NCDs, reduction of traffic congestion and pollution, and reduction of road accidents. SDG's target 3.6 aims to halve road accident deaths by 2030. It is possible to be very successful in this by ensuring a safe walking environment. Besides, it will be possible to achieve goal 7, 10, 11 and 13 of SDG.

The event was presided over by Jerina Ferdous, Vice Principal, Bangla and English versions of South Point School and College. She said that from today's workshop, students will be able to learn the details of how to keep away non-communicable diseases by walking. The workshop will be successful only if you apply the lessons learned in your personal life. Along with walking, it is important to develop some good habits, such as- playing regularly to ensure physical and mental well-being, socializing with the elderly, doing one's own work, helping in the household works irrespective of the boys and girls etc.

Naima Akter, Project Officer of Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust, was the main facilitator of the workshop. She said that physical inactivity, air pollution, unhealthy eating habits, consumption of tobacco products and alcohol are responsible for non-communicable diseases. Physical activity needs can be easily met by walking to school. Physical activity activates our brain which helps to increase attention. At present, motor vehicles are responsible forth 25% of the worlds total carbon emissions. The more people walk instead of using cars; there will be less carbon emissions and less pollution.

In the workshop, 50 students were divided into 5 groups and presented their various problems and necessary solutions while walking to school. The students pointed out the following problems: excessive speed of cars, absence of speed breaker, illegal parking and vehicle movement on sidewalks, fumes of cars, broken roads, water logging, garbage, eve-teasing, passive smoking, risk of hijacking etc. The solutions include car control, improvement of walking environment, provision of zebra crossings, and provision of bicycle lanes, banning illegal parking and movement of vehicles on sidewalks, removal of garbage and construction materials from roads, improvement of sewerage system, regular repair of roads and sidewalks by government, proper enforcement of law etc. They also recommended creating a voluntary organization that will work to improve the community-based walking environment. Besides, they expressed their determination to become advocates to improve the walking environment by writing letters to the relevant authorities, conducting awareness programs, campaigns through social media and various other activities.

The program was moderated by Ziaur Rahman, Senior Project Officer, Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust and others present in the event were Awal Kamruzzaman Farid, General Secretary, Pallima Sangsad; Proma Saha & Ahmed Hossain, Development Officer, Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust and teachers & students of South Point School and College.