Dhaka dwellers are no stranger to longer commutes, but the pre-Ramadan rush and resumption of regular classes at educational institutions compounded the traffic delays.
The buses at Mohakhali bus terminal were all parked by either side of the road due to an election of the Inter-city Transport Sramik Union, locking up streets in the vicinity.
Ajmeri Glory bus driver’s assistant Alamgir Hossain said around 3pm on Wednesday that a 17km trip from Uttara House Building took over three hours.
The bus set off from Gazipur’s Chandra at 10am and reached Uttara around 11:45am, wading through traffic all the way, Alamgir said.
“We’re only at Moghbazar after starting at 10am. I’ve no idea how long it would take to reach Sadarghat. We're spending the whole day on the road. It’s tough to say how long it’d take to return to Chandra.”
The congestion held up the main road of Moghbazar, Mouchak, Malibagh, Shantinagar and Kakrail areas as drivers turned off engines to save up on fuel.
Farhana Rahman, a college student, set off for Kakrail from Moghbazar on a rickshaw at 12:30pm. She got off the three-wheeler at Malibagh Mor at 1:30pm and travelled the rest of the way on foot.
“I haven’t seen such traffic over the past few years. I sat still on the road under the scorching sun and then had to wade through the crowds on the footpath.”
The agonising waits were accompanied by hot weather at the start of Chaitra, the last month of the Bengali calendar. The mild heatwave twinned with dry air baked the Dhaka streets on Wednesday.
Due to the congestion at Mirpur’s Kalshi to ECB Chattar to Kuril Biswa Road since the morning, people had to walk to their destination in unforgiving conditions.
Halim Sarker, who works at a private company, said he had started for office around 9am but it took him over an hour to reach ECB Chattar from Kalshi.
“The road has been widened to construct a new flyover in Kalshi. But the road closes in near ECB and too many vehicles at the same time bottleneck the route there.”
“But this mostly happens during office hours… A lot of time is being wasted on it, while the heat is making things tougher.”
REOPENING EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS
The educational institutions have resumed regular classes from Mar 15 for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak two years ago.
Many roads in the capital were packed for the last two days as transports carrying students came into the picture.
Traffic hit a stop at Mohammadpur’s Asad Avenue, Tajmahal Road and the streets nearby since the morning. Roads in Mirpur were also packed.
“The condition of the traffic worsened after schools reopened. Ramadan is approaching and many people come here from outside Dhaka [in this period]. That’s causing such congestion,” Osman Ali, a shopkeeper in Tajmahal Road, said.
Azizul Islam, who was stuck in a jam in Asad Avenue, said, “This road has schools everywhere. The private cars that bring students to the schools are parked out on the road and make it narrower.”
The road from Kalshi to Kakrail via Banani, Mohakhali and Nabisco was congested with traffic. Bank official Arif Hossain said it took him one hour and 40 minutes to reach Mohakhali’s Amtali from Kalshi on Wednesday. The trip takes 30 to 40 minutes on other days.
“I think the traffic jam has increased over the last two-three days as classes have started in full swing,” Arif said.
Tamiz Uddin, a chauffeur who has been driving in the capital for more than a decade, said an increase in the number of private cars, auto-rickshaws, and long-distance vehicles, especially covered vans, has led to traffic congestion.
It took him two and a half hours to reach Kakrail from Gulshan, Tamiz said.
Traffic congestion became unbearable in the last few days and it clogged Dhaka streets, including Mahakhali, Hathijheel, Rampura, Kakrail, and Bijoynagar.
The city is experiencing huge traffic congestions because more people are going out with the coronavirus cases ebbing, Tamiz said.
Mollah Jalal Uddin, a doctor at a private hospital in Purana Paltan, also believes that the presence of people has increased in all parts of the capital for the last few days.
The traffic jam continued in the evening. It took nearly an hour for firefighters from Baridhara to reach a building that caught fire in Merul Badda at 6:30pm.
Boasting the city corporation’s “success” in freeing the canals from illegal structures, Dhaka North Mayor Atiqul Islam called on the government to put the control of police’s traffic department to the city corporations.
“The streets are mine, but I can’t decide how many vehicles will be there – then how will it work? It won’t work if I'm given the charge of the streets but not the traffic police,” he said.
[Writing in English by Syed Mahmud Onindo and Arshi Fatiha Quazi]