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Roads in Dhaka are timeless

  • Published at 09:15 pm October 18th, 2019
Dhaka Roads
Photo: RAJIB DHAR

But it’s not a good thing

Dhaka was a business hub of the sub-continent even before the British came here in the name of "trading". Since the liberation of Bangladesh, Dhaka had been the only powerhouse city in the country up until the last few decades, when places like Chittagong, Sylhet and Rajshahi started to see some major developments. 

But let’s face, it Dhaka is still the main man of all the cities in the country. Since the beginning, the city has seen its fair share of make overs, yet the one thing that remains the same are the streets. 

But it isn’t in a good way like an evergreen tree or anything, it’s more like that coffee stain on your favourite shirt, when even after washing you find yellow lines on it. Sometimes you wear it in the hope that your friends won’t notice, sometimes you wear it at home because you love it.  But in reality, you know it’s stained and it’s always staring you in the face.

Dhaka is increasingly becoming a more high-rise city. With a booming clothing industry, it is a very attractive city to set up a business in. Even with the improved infrastructures elsewhere, the one thing always seems to be neglected are the roads. 

It seems, for some reasons roads themselves are allergic to remaining in good condition or there’s some dark arts that’s stopping them from improving. Even with all the advancements in almost every sector of the country, the roads remain the same, as if they are almost timeless.

I'm a 90s kid so, the only personal experience I can speak from are the last three decades. I must say they are far from pleasant. I remember when I was a toddler in the 90s; when I was starting school, I only had to walk 10 minutes to school. 

I was in that school for only the first three years of my schooling life, yet the only thing I remember from those three years is how bad the roads were! The next seven years of commute didn't leave any good impression either. 

Construction of the first ever flyover started when I started commuting to a bigger school. I remember people saying how there won't be any traffic in the city, how the roads will be better, once they are done. We all know how that turned out. 

Since then we've manage to build atleast four other flyovers, a few more are under construction and we also have a metro rail on the way. Yet, the roads are still the same. It's full of pot holes, there's always a manhole cover missing and somebody alwaysput a tree or a bamboo or anything that will stick for preventing potentially fatal accidents. A couple of days ago I saw an auto rickshaw go head first in a manhole with passengers on board. 

It's not just me. I've heard stories from my parents and my grandparents, my older cousins, my parents’ uncles and aunties; they all said more or less the same story about how the roads use to be like here, back in the day. 

The only difference I can make out is there were less people and less vehicles, no flyovers. Other than that almost nothing has changed. 

How is it possible that the roads are in the same pathetic condition for so long? Are the roads alive? how are they consistently so bad? What is the secret to their sauce? 

The biggest question I have is: How many people suffer back problems due to the bad road system in Dhaka? I couldn't find any specific research anywhere. So, if anyone knows of any studies or accurate figures, feel free to contact me via social media, I'd love to see the numbers. 

But until then I suppose we can all enjoy these timeless roads and hope someday -- maybe someday -- they'll magically fix themselves.