The already horrible traffic situation is only about to get worse for Dhaka dwellers with two new large-scale projects – metro rail and elevated expressway – set to gain momentum across the city in the next couple of years.
Authorities, however, said such sacrifices are essential to achieve something better.
“Without suffering, it is not possible to create something wonderful. It is natural. So when an authority carries out a big construction work, it will create some sufferings for city dwellers,” said Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader.
“However, it has been ordered to keep the sufferings at a tolerable level,” he added.
The minister also assured the residents of the capital that the ministry has made sudden visits to project sites and taken legal action against guilty officials and contractors whose mismanagement has caused suffering to the public.
One of the largest ongoing projects in Dhaka city is the construction of the Moghbazar-Mouchak flyover. It is also one of the biggest causes of sufferings for city commuters.
It was originally supposed to be completed by July 2014, but only a 2km part – one-fifth of the total length – has so far been opened to the public.
The second part, which stretches from Eskaton to Mouchak, is 86% complete. But the third part from Rampura to Shantinagar via Malibagh and Rajarbagh Police Lines is only 47% complete.
Authorities say the construction would be wrapped up by December this year.
But similar promises have often produced no result in the past, with project cost going up with each extension of the deadline.
“Unplanned underground utility service is the main cause for delay in the project. For this, we needed to change the design for the flyover,” said Ataur Rahman Bhuiyan Manik, chairman of Toma Group – which is one of the contractors for the Moghbazar-Mouchak flyover.
Visiting the project site and talking to the locals, the Dhaka Tribune found that massive tailbacks have been a daily story for the area ever since construction began as building materials continue to occupy a large part of the streets.
“Since work began on the flyover, we have seen hundreds of vehicles stuck on this road for a long duration. Passengers have to get down from their vehicles at Malibagh rail crossing and walk to their destinations,” said Anowar Hossain, who works at a pharmacy on the DIT Road.
“We also fear that the road will become unusable during the upcoming monsoon as it is already full of potholes,” he added.
If the situation was not complicated enough, throw in the metro rail project – another sluggish moving project – into the mix.
This project would cover a larger area than the flyover, with two separate routes starting from Uttara and Pallabi and stretching all the way to Sayedabad.
Although metro rail project was initiated in 2012, only the preliminary work has been done so far, with the main construction expected to begin next year.
When that happens, some of the major thoroughfares would see added pressure of traffic; and unless there are alternative traffic routes planned, sufferings would grow at an exponential rate.
Project Director Mofazzel Hossain said: “The construction of viaduct, pillar and rail track of metro rail will start next year. During that time we think it will create traffic gridlock. But we will fix a plan for alternative traffic route by discussing with stakeholders.”
Nonetheless, Dhaka dwellers should brace themselves for a long-haul suffering as the first phase of construction – if everything goes according to plan – would be finished by December 2019. A further five years would be needed for the full project to be over.
The ongoing construction of Dhaka Elevated Expressway would go into full gear next year, increasing traffic woes from Dhaka airport to Jatrabari until the project is completed.
The expressway is another example of sluggish progress, with the project having already missed three deadlines in starting its construction work.
The process to build the expressway was initiated in 2011 and all work was supposed to be completed in 2013. But the Tk8,703 crore project has been plagued with delays since then.
Now, if work goes on uninterrupted, completion of the project is expected in 2018. Until then, residents from the far north to the far south can expect their traffic crisis to only worsen.