Thursday 23, March 2023

Painful Eid journeys

News Desk: After a two-year Covid pandemic in Bangladesh, lakhs of people on their homebound eid journeys this year are likely to face immense sufferings on the roads, waterways and railway.

Besides a vast number of travellers, traffic congestion, limited number of transports, running construction works on key points on roads and highways, ferry crisis and a limited number train seats are the key factors that might increase sufferings of the holidaymakers.

The number of accidents on roads is also likely to go up this year due to huge rushes on roads, said observers concerned.

Mismanagement and lack of monitoring by the authorities, extortion on roads and charging extra fares are other issues that would add to the ever-growing sufferings of people on all modes of travel.

While the authorities concerned said that they would take action to facilitate the eid journeys, rights activists and transport experts said that immediate action was necessary.

Like the previous years, the most painful pressure points will be the exits out of Dhaka, the Dhaka–Tangail, Dhaka–Mymensingh, Dhaka–Rangpur, Dhaka-Sylhet highways and the Paturia-Daulatdia and Aricha-Kazirhat waterways. Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, will as usual be the centre of sufferings of the homebound people.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people leave the capital on the occasion of the eid festivals, the rush during which saw easing in the past two years due to the Covid restrictions.

‘Before this eid, we assume, some 30 lakh people will leave Dhaka daily for four days,’ said Accident Research Institute director Professor Md Hadiuzzaman. The number would be much higher compared to the previous two years as there are no restrictions this year, he observed.

There would be high risks of accidents, he added, as 12-13 lakh of these 30 lakh people would leave Dhaka by goods-laden vehicles and on the roofs of trains due to lack of regular transports.

On Sunday, the Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh at a press conference pointed out a number of exit points of Dhaka which would be risky due to traffic congestion.

They are Jatrabari, Saidabad, Babubazar Bridge, Postogola, Tongi rail station, Shaheed Ahsan Ullah Master Flyover, Mirer Bazar, Ulukhola, Kanchan Bridge, Gabtoli Mazar Road, Mirer Dhour, Ashulia, EPZ area, Chandra, Rayer Bazar Shaheed Buddhijibi Bridge, Jinjira, Keraniganj, Hatirjheel, Mohakhali, Rampura, Shekher Jaiga, Amulia, Demra, Sultana Kamal Bridge, Chittagong Road, Kanchpur, Modonpur, Meghna Toll Plaza, Bhulta, Gausia, Borfa and the stretch from Uttara to Gazipur.

Speakers at the press conference also urged the authorities to conduct strict monitoring to prevent extortion on roads and charging extra fares on all modes of transports.

‘We are asking the bus operators to take passengers inside the Gabtoli, Mohakhali and Saidabad terminals to reduce congestions,’ said Dhaka Metropolitan Police additional commissioner for traffic Munibur Rahman.

Professor Shamsul Hoque, a former ARI director, said that without increasing the capacity of the waterways and railway sufferings on the roads would not ease.

Gazipur correspondent reported that it was being feared that thousands of people will pass through the district by road facing immense sufferings during the eid.

The Dhaka-Tangail national highway is one of the busiest and most important highways as it is the entrance to 23 northern districts. In Gazipur city, the Chandona Crossing and the Bhogra Bypass are the busiest and the most important points for people to leave and come back to Dhaka.

Besides, people go to Mymensingh by the Dhaka-Mymensingh national highway which meets the Dhaka–Tangail highway at the Chandona Crossing and the Bhogra Bypass. Every day, several lakh vehicles, including 15,000-20,000 buses run on these highways.

Currently, the construction of the first-ever bus rapid line is going on a 12-kilometre stretch from the Tongi Bridge to the Chandona Crossing on the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway.

Usually, it takes two to four hours to travel this stretch and the situation turns severe after a rainfall. In Gazipur, there are over 500 factories, mostly apparel units, and the huge number of workers of these factories leave their areas when the Eid holiday is announced.

Locals said that huge traffic congestion took place at the Gazipur Crossing, Tongi College Gate and Tongi Station Road as people board buses at all points of these roads.

BRT Line-3 project director ASM Elias Shah on Sunday said that they were taking necessary steps so that travelling people did not face traffic congestion during the Eid.

Gazipur Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner for traffic Abdullah Al Mamun said that they were conducting operation to stop movement of illegal vehicles on roads. Gazipur deputy commissioner Anisur Rahman said that they were going forward with an integrated plan to ease traffic congestion on roads.

Tangail correspondent reported that the prolonged construction work from Joydebpur to Elenga and the dilapidated condition of the Dhaka-Tangail highway were likely to cause immense sufferings to the Eid travellers this year.

While the work on upgrading the highway to four lanes is going on and the construction of the Gorai overpass is yet to be completed.

As a result, the buses to and from the northern parts of the country have to use one lane now, causing tremendous congestion.

At the Elenga point, the vehicles from the four lanes enter the two lanes, which also triggers serious congestion always.

From Elenga to the east side of the Bangabandhu Bridge a 13km stretch the road has two lanes and it, too, normally causes huge congestion of vehicles from and to the 24 northern districts.

The toll collection operation at the bridge also results in huge traffic gridlock.

The Banganadhu Bridge’s total traffic tally on 14 April was 19,841 and on 15 April 17,123.

The densest traffic flow on the bridge was recorded during Eid-ul-Fitr in 2021, with 52,768 transports using the bridge.

Along these stretches and sections, accidents are also very common.

Tangail superintendent of police Sarkar Mohammad Kaiser said that they would undertake action to handle the situation.

Fifteen points on the west side of the Bangabandhu Bridge are regarded as prone to traffic congestion, including the 22-kilomtre road from the west side of the bridge to the Hatikumrul Crossing and the 21- kilomtre stretch from Hatikumrul to Chandaikona.

Highway police Bogura zone superintendent Munshi Shahbuddin said that they would take joint steps to mitigate eid journey sufferings.

Sirajganj correspondent reported that traffic gridlock had been common on the Dhaka–Rangpur highway for the past few years as at least passengers to and from 18 districts used this highway.

Hatikumrul highway police station officer-in-charge Lutfur Rahman said that from Bangabandhu Bridge west side’s Nolka area to Hatikumrul congestion could take place as repairing works were going on there.

Roads and Highways Department engineer Didarul Alam Torofdar said that they would open Chandaikona Bridge on April 20 which would reduce congestion.

Manikganj correspondent reported that due to shortage of ferries huge congestion on the Aricha–Kazirhat and Paturia–Daulatdia waterways passenger on southern routes were likely to face huge sufferings. These two routes connect 21 south-western and 17 north-western districts.

After the closing of ferry services on the Shimulia–Majhirkandi route, the pressure on these two routes has increased since 2021.

Three ferries are running now on the Aricha–Kazirhat route and 19 ferries on the Paturia–Daulatdia route.

At Paturia, four of the five ghats are operational now.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation Aricha regional office deputy general manager Khalid Newaz said that they would add two more ferries to the present fleet before the eid.

Sylhet correspondent reported that movement of smaller vehciles, including CNG-run auto-rickshaws and even rickshaws, on the Dhaka–Sylhet, Sylhet-Tamabil and Sylhet-Bholaganj highways is the key factor behind growing number of road accidents in Sylhet regions.

Sylhet highway police superintendent Md Shahidul Islam told us that they were monitoring the movement of smaller and slow-moving vehicles on the highways to reduce unwanted road mishaps.

He said that the number of road accidents and the intensity of passenger sufferings would come down once the highways introduced separate lanes for slow-moving vehicles.

Chattogram correspondent reported that already huge traffic congestion was seen in Patiya and Dohazari areas on the Chattogram-Cox’s Bazar highway and in Sitakunda on the Chattogram Dhaka highway.

Shamsuddin Chowdhury, general secretary of the Bangladesh Passenger Rights Protection Council, told us that passenger sufferings resulted from negligence of the authorities concerned.

‘Unplanned development works, unfit vehicles and unauthorised vehicles on roads also create sufferings,’ he added.


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