No respite in site, despite multiple government initiatives
Despite being home to large export-oriented factories and local conglomerates, broken roads, endless traffic congestion and chaotic road systems continue to cause losses for businesses in and around Gazipur.
Local business owners said that Gazipur always had the potential to become one of the country's major industrial hubs, but uncontrollable traffic and broken roads have had adverse effects on their supply chain distribution.
The dilapidated roads caused transportation delays from factories, adding extra production cost and time, said several factory officials.
The district is home to more than 4,500 factories and it is one of the biggest zones of the country’s apparel industries.
Top global smartphone manufacturers like Xiaomi, Oppo, and Tecno have their mobile phone assembly plants in Gazipur, not to mention shoe manufacturing giants like Bata.
For this reason, a large number of local and foreign officials, buyers, and representatives involved in these industries regularly travel from Dhaka to Gazipur.
Moreover, several of the country’s biggest business conglomerates like Beximco and Pran-RFL Group have their industrial parks in Gazipur where the government also is setting up Sreepur Economic Zone and Bangabandhu Hi-Tech City.
Potholes of various sizes and shapes are synonymous with Gazipur and adjacent Tongi's roads.
The country’s first BRT project (BRT-3) is underway from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in the capital, to Gazipur, whose founding stone was laid in 2012 and was scheduled to end in 2016. But the construction is still five years behind the schedule.
Moreover, when it rains, even a little, water accumulates in the potholes which lead to hours-long gridlocks, stranding vehicles for long periods of time, locals said.
In addition, the normal speed of vehicles is also disrupted due to various reasons including lane contraction in different parts, as well as road dividers.
The 20.5 km-long BRT, which has been under construction for the last nine years, is also responsible for narrowing the Dhaka-Gazipur highway to a great extent.
Regular commuters of these roads said that they have to spend a significant amount of time daily while coming to work and going back home.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, Ejaz Ahmed, managing director of Gazipur-based Mark Wear Limited, said that now everyone knows about the problem of Gazipur Road, there is nothing new to say about it.
However, it is impossible to get rid of this problem overnight. Now there is no choice but to wait for the responsible authorities to take the initiative to complete the work as soon as possible, he added.
A senior official of Renaissance Apparels Limited said that there is a problem with the timely shipment of goods and also complications in the transportation of raw materials.
“The most irritating thing is that it is not always possible to bring buyer representatives to the factory. Meetings with them have to be done with a rented hotel in Dhaka. As a result, the buyer's representatives are not getting a chance to see our factory on the spot,” he added.
Moreover, the traffic congestion on the highway also causes immeasurable suffering to factory workers.
In this regard, manufacturers and businesses have suggested that the implementing agencies of the BRT should initiate a proper work plan to speed up the work.
Gazipur City Corporation Mayor Mohammad Zahangir Alam said: “In the last eight years adjacent areas, people and business hubs incurred a loss of around Tk96,000 crore, or even more. These delayed projects are hampering local lives and livelihoods. We want immediate completion of these projects."
"Every day more than 10,000-12,000 vehicles use this road. This is unbearable suffering for all of us. Traffic congestion has appeared as a regular mark of life," he added.
A senior official of Roads and Highways Department (RHD), requesting anonymity, said: “Lack of coordination is an issue and another issue is that contractors who have taken the task are also delaying blaming various issues, higher authorities have been notified in this regard. Mega projects are our topmost priority”
Mega projects in limbo
Poor feasibility study, lack of coordination and leadership are key reasons experts opine for lack of progress in the three airport-centric mega projects.
They underscored that the BRT projects were taken to slash sufferings; now eventually these unfinished works for nearly ten years have brought more woe to the local people.
This is the first rapid bus transit 20.5-kilometer project taken in 2012 in the country and with an aim to reduce traffic clogging on the Dhaka-Gazipur highway, which had a deadline in 2016.
The preliminary assessed project cost of Tk2,039.84 crore more than doubled to Tk4,268 crore, though it progressed 61% in July.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, M Shafiq-Ur Rahman, who teaches at Department of Urban and Regional Planning of Jahangirnagar University (JU), said: “These bus rapid projects were taken only because they could have been finished in less than 18-24 months. But due to poor leadership, coordination and lack of monitoring, it resulted in misery for the people of Gazipur.”
Citing projects in the United Kingdom and other developed countries, he said that the authority's aim for solving transportation problems is questionable here.
In most of the cases, project directors remain nonchalant. Coordination and communication for most of the mega projects are the biggest problem.
Slowness in these projects will hamper economic productivity in these areas, he added.
Muhammad Shahadat Hossain Siddiquee of the Department of Economics at University of Dhaka said: “These project implementations need to be critically judged due to fall in revenue collection by the government across the country. Therefore, such things might delay domestic-financing projects in Bangladesh”
In neighbouring India, Karnataka’s BJP government has called upon all IT parks located along the Outer Ring Road (ORR) stretch in Bengaluru to extend the ongoing Work From Home (WFH) period up to December 2022.
If that is not possible, the government has asked them to stagger the working hours for those coming to office.
However, the state government added that it would be difficult to manage traffic if IT companies allow employees to resume work from offices.
Experts said that the Karnataka government's example can also be emulated in Gazipur's case, if there is a will to do so.