Chattogram, the port city, has been smarting under severe traffic congestion. In the last few years things have took a serious turn. When the authorities are doggedly pursuing projects that many consider as placebos, since they only bring false promises, the rhythm of the urban life in the city has been under duress.
As urbanisation has progressed without plan and precaution, the city dwellers now witness traffic congestions at the late hours of the night.
Experts blamed inadequate public vehicles like city service buses, lack of parking places, shortage of roads, encroachment on footpaths by hawkers and shopkeepers, poor coordination of concerned agencies including Chittagong Development Authority, Chittagong Metropolitan Police and Chittagong City Corporation as the prime causes of the traffic congestion in Chattogram.
Long tailbacks of traffic for hours on end have made civic life in the Chittagong port city miserable. Most of the city roads remain clogged with vehicles making the city dwellers’ journey to their destinations more taxing.
The traffic system of the city has already collapsed as the vehicles can’t run on the main roads of the port city Chittagong due to traffic jam.
Reaching one’s respective destination in time is dream that is only waning. An intolerable situation prevails on all working days except Fridays and Saturdays.
Rahela Matin, a banker said, ‘I live in Agrabad area. In working days, I leave my home at 7:00am and reach my office at Muradpur after 8:30am. Sometimes it takes more than that.’
What the assigned agencies are doing is not clear to me at all. If such chaotic condition prevails, why do we need all these institutions, she asked.
The traffic system of the city has already collapsed as the vehicles can’t run on the main roads of the city due to congestion particularly the female, aged people and school-going students have been facing serious trouble due to traffic jam for disorderly movement of vehicles.
Chattogram is a populous city with industries and the port, which is the heart of the country’s economy. So, a huge number of workers have to use city roads every day. There are no adequate public vehicles and roads for the city dwellers. Both sides of most of the roads in the city are also being used for parking, as there are no parking places attached to office buildings or high-rise buildings or markets.
Chittagong Development Authority, responsible for new road development has constructed flyovers. But the flyovers are found to be of little use as the public transport does not use them due to lack of entrance and exit facilities for the passengers at busy and important junctions of the roads.
The passengers using the Shah Amanat International Airport regularly suffer in absence of public transportations.
In Chattogram, the main traffic congestion occurs due to mixture of motorised and non-motorised vehicles on the main road intersections of the city, believe a number experts who subscribe to a structured approach to the problem of gridlocks rather than building unnecessary infrastructure such as flyovers.
The main points of the city, including New Market, Station Road, GEC point, WASA point, Muradpur, Bohadderhat, Sholoshahar, Chalkbazar, Chittagong College area, Jamal Khan road, Anderkilla, Agrabad, Barik Building, Fakirhat, Chittagong Port gate area, Pahartoli, Alonker point, Kathgor Bazar, Steel Mills Bazar, CEPZ point, Saltgolla, Kotowli point, Karnaphuli Bridge, Kalurghat, Oxygen point, Chittagong University Kajirdewari, Lalkhan Bazar are the major spots for traffic congestion. Mainly, the major routes, including Kathgor-Bohadder Hat, New Market-Chalkbazar-Bohadderhat, GEC point-Alonker point, Chittagong City-Chittagong University, New Market-Airport roads remain choked with motorised and non-motorised vehicles.
Architect Ashiq Imran mentioned various reasons, including plying of motorised and non-motorised vehicles on the same road, absence of proper traffic management, encroachment of footpaths, not following traffic signals and scarcity of parking spaces are responsible for the city’s appalling traffic situation.
This is the only country where one road is used by rickshaw, bus, car, truck, CNG auto-rickshaw, truck and trailer as well as bicycle.
At present there are 40,000 registered and 2 lakh non-registered rickshaws in the port city, he said.
It is ridiculous that the city corporation is installing signalling system for traffic management and CMP is using it. Traffic management and signalling system should be completely under CMP. The traffic department of CMP needs to be more equipped and strengthened.
The architect said that if traffic police could clear the traffic congestion and manage the road during VIP movement it meant that if they wanted they could also do it for the rest of people during the entire the day.
Ashiq Imran said that Bus Rapid Transit was necessary for the port city and the city corporation needed to take this initiative to introduce this service, which can ease the severity the constrain faced by the commuters on a daily basis.
To make everything operational they need to run under a system, which required a planning department. The planning department would do all the planning regarding traffic, fixing stoppages for vehicles and creating parking spaces, controlling the number of public transports and so on to resolve the chaotic situation in Chattogram, said Ashiq Imran.
Chittagong Development Authority chief town planner Shahinul Islam Khan readily agreed that instead of flyovers Bus Rapid Transit, Light Rail Transit and dedicated bus lane would have been more effective and necessary to ease traffic congestion of the city.
He said that the Urban Strategic Transport Master Plan 1995 said clearly to form a separate transport wing for the overall management of traffic and transport system of Chattogram but none made any move to this end.
During the design approval of high-rise and commercial buildings, CDA never permitted anyone to construct building without parking facilities. But in reality most of the building owners did not keep parking facilities. For many years, CDA had no magistrate to conduct drives against the building owners for violating the law, he added.
Chattogram City Corporation chief engineer Lieutenant Colonel Mohiuddin Ahamed said that due to lack of coordination among the concerned agencies the problem had not been solved.
‘At first, port traffic and city traffic must be segregated. Traffic department of CMP must be operational with the skilled officials who have knowledge on traffic engineering,’ he pointed out.
‘An integrated system must be developed. Traffic signaling system should be under traffic department. Dhaka Metropolitan Police has been installing and maintaining the signal lights on their own. We can provide the space and other facilities for operating the signal lights to the CMP. Moreover, the city corporation is paying around Tk 1 crore every year as electricity bills for the signal lights,’ said the chief engineer.
The agencies needed full power to perform their respective duties. So, traffic should be the concern of the CMP, said the corporation chief engineer.
‘The major city roads in Chittagong are 100 to 120 feet in width. Even if the corporation widens the city roads to 600 feet the traffic congestion will not be solved until a structured approach is adopted and laws are enforced,’ he argued.
Whereas several officials of the traffic division of CMP held a few other factors responsible for the traffic jam. These are lack of electronic signalling system, excessive number of rickshaws, having no terminals for city buses as well as long-route vehicles; violation of traffic rules by drivers; parking vehicles on roads and intersections randomly; an increase in the number of vehicles; road digging for development works; and construction of unnecessary flyovers.
Traffic Department of CMP cannot control the clogging on roads even at significant points after taking special measures, deploying additional traffic police and heaping additional duties on its officials.
Chittagong Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner traffic (port) Md Tareq Ahmed told New Age that the main reason of traffic jam was the port-centered vehicular movement as these vehicles wait in different entries to the port occupying the main road.
The second reason he mentioned was the potholed roads for which vehicle need longer time to pass.
Actions were being taken against the traffic rule violators regularly. Realised from the traffic rule violators, on an average, Tk 1 crore are being transferred every month to the government exchequer, he added.
He said that drivers and city dwellers needed to be aware of the traffic system while the policy makers needed comprehensive plan to stop haphazard road cutting. Moreover, an alternative road must be developed to lessen the pressure on the main roads of the port city so that the goods-laden vehicles of port can use that, he observed.
Tareq Ahmed was of the pinion that a separate system was required for vehicles plying to and from Chittagong Port, so that those vehicles would not need to ply the main road of the city, otherwise the problem would multiply.
Apart from solving these problems, awareness should be raised among drivers and transport owners to mitigate traffic congestion, he said.
Bangladesh Road Transport Authority executive magistrate SM Manzurul Haque summed up the situation by saying that chaotic condition was prevailing in Chattogram. Adequate public transport would not solve this problem if there were no enforcement of the laws and regulations, he believed.
He also suggested that the authorities repaired all the dilapidated roads, which were now causing accidents and traffic congestions in the port city.
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