The Dhaka-Chittagong highway, which acts as a crucial transportation link from the port city to the south-eastern region of Bangladesh, has a history of suffering from severe gridlock.
It is not an unusual sight to see long queues of buses, trucks and covered vans, standing still for hours.
The highway was expanded recently, in an attempt to ease the traffic jam plaguing the route. However, the initiative is making little difference in improving the situation.
Vehicles belonging to different factories in the region have taken over the highway. As they cross the Sitakunda area, passengers get stuck on the road for hours.
According to the passengers and the drivers, parked cargo vehicles carrying goods and raw material occupy both sides of the road. Loading and unloading of goods, and raw material are being done there, violating the regulations.
There are also allegations that the highway police are taking bribes for allowing parking, loading and unloading on the highway.
Local police have admitted that trucks and container movers have taken over the road, but firmly denied the allegations of taking bribes.
Ahsan Habib, Highway police Inspector of Baro Awlia Post, said “Most of the factories do not have their own truck stand. So, they park their trucks on the highway. This is the primary reason for traffic jam here.”
Discussing the issue of the illegal occupation of Dhaka-Chittagong highway, the police inspector said: “Sometimes we conduct drives against trucks parked on the highway and fine the owners. We also held several meetings with owners of different industries, and have asked them to build their own truck stands.
“A number of factory owners promised to build their own truck stand, but did not follow through with their promise.”
The policeman denied the allegations of taking bribes for allowing illegal parking on highway.
“The government has given licenses to industrial companies even though they did not have enough space for their own truck stands. The gridlock issue on this highway could have been avoided if the Commerce Ministry and the Industries Ministry had checked whether the companies fulfilled essential requirements for building industries here,” Habib added.
More than 50 industrial factories can be found from City Gate to Kumira area near the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway. Most of them were built in the past few years.
Factories such as– Kabir Steel Re-rolling Mills Ltd, GPS Ispat, BSRM Steel Mill, Confidence Cement Factory, KDS Logistic Container Depot, Abul Khair Steel Mills, PHP Float Glass Factory are located here.
Visiting the area, the correspondent found that parked container movers, tank lorries, cargo trucks and covered vans have taken over most of the highway on both sides.
Traffic on the road is being constantly disrupted by vehicles going in and coming out of these factories. Goods and raw material are being loaded and unloaded on the road, instead of inside the factories.
Because of these issues, the highway becomes clogged, causing passengers and regular traffic get stuck in gridlock for hours.
According to sources, Kabir Steel Mills alone has more than one hundred trailer trucks, 50 cargo trucks, and 50 dump trucks. However, the company does not have their own truck stand, so it uses the highway as a parking lot.
BSRM, Abul Khair Steel Mills and GPH Ispat also do not have their own truck stands. These three companies use around four to five hundred vehicles for goods transportation, and park them on the road.
An official of the KSRM factory transportation department, on condition of anonymity, said: “We pay the highway police a set amount of money every month, for allowing us to park on the highway. If we refuse to pay, the police conduct raids.”
Addressing the issue, Sitakunda Police Station Officer-in-Charge (OC) Iftekhar Hossain said: “We have issued letters to the company owners, through the Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO), directing them not to use the road as a parking lot for their vehicles. We also conducted numerous drives and fined people responsible for this illegal act.”
He added: “We have impounded some vehicles. But despite our efforts, they [companies] continue to park their vehicles on the highway. They are refusing to obey the law.”
Pointing out that the highway police are doing everything they can in accordance with the law to resolve the issue, the OC said: “They [companies] are making excuses of not having enough space for a parking lot. Their claim of paying bribes for parking is baseless.”
The police official stated that the high ups have been contacted over the issue.
“Only through the direct involvement of the high ups can this issue be resolved. This illegal practice of parking on the highway has gone on for far too long, and the passengers’ sufferings are increasing every day,” he concluded.
This article was first published on banglatribune.com