Authorities planned to divert traffic and reduce the clog at major roundabouts. But the plan proved to be unrealistic for Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue.
With the work on metro rail and other large infrastructure projects going on in full swing, the already bad traffic situation has worsened due to lack of enough road space. The authorities concerned planned to divert traffic and reduce the clog at major roundabouts and intersections. But this has hit a major roadblock in one of the capital’s most visited thoroughfare -- Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue. Karwan Bazaar, the capital’s largest kitchen market, is located on this road. As the kitchen market is being frequented by a large number of people on a daily basis, this road practically remains clogged because of the loss of road space due to construction barricades of the metro rail project.
At the same time, the lion’s share of the planned alternative roads is grabbed by the makeshift marketers of the kitchen market, making the passing of vehicles through such routes fairly impossible. The metro rail project in the capital is aimed at easing the perennial traffic congestion in the capital and providing an improved, faster, comfortable and environment-friendly means of public transportation.
The physical progress of the country’s maiden metro rail service is already visible across the city. A total of 376 spans can be seen spread over 377 points from Uttara to Motijheel, covering the 20-km-long project. Under the project, contract packages (CP)-3, 4, 5, 6 are working full-time. The construction of a nearly 12-km-long viaduct and nine stations from north Uttara to Agargaon has made considerable progress. The works started in August 2017.
The construction of a 3-km-long viaduct and three stations from Agargaon to Karwan Bazar began in August last year. At the same time, the construction of another 5-km-long viaduct and four stations from Karwan Bazar to Motijheel began.
There will be a total of 106 piers and three stations in the part from Agargaon to Karwan Bazar. At least half of the road space are barricaded to construct these. This has made the eight-lane road only four-lane. The loss of four lanes due to construction has choked the traffic, especially on Kazi
Nazrul Islam Avenue, and made the job of traffic police at the five-road intersection of the Saarc Fountain a nightmare. Besides, the Bijoy Sarani intersection, which has already become infamous in Dhaka for long waiting periods, is also testing commuters’ patience.
Nadia Tabassum Khan, an employee of a multinational company, told The Independent that it used to take her around 30-35 minutes to cross the Tejgaon flyover at the Bijoy Sarani intersection. “Now it takes over an hour sometimes. It’s very frustrating,” she added.
To reach her home in Dhanmondi from her office in Tejgaon, Nadia used to take Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue and turn right towards Bashundhara City. “Now, with the metro rail construction going on in Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue, crossing this 1.2-km-long road has become another hour-long task.”
Why traffic clogs at Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue?
According to the Traffic Division, before the metro rail project started on Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue, the average number of vehicles crossing the Saarc Fountain each hour was over 1,500. After the construction started, it became nearly half, with 800 vehicles crossing per hour.
Now, with metro rail project gearing up its pace, only 500-600 vehicles are now crossing the Saarc Fountain intersection every hour. This slow-down of vehicles at arguably the busiest intersection of the capital has a lasting effect on the whole city’s traffic, experts say.
Now, anticipating this clogging of traffic at Karwan Bazaar, the experts concerned earlier chalked out some alternative routes to divert the traffic before barricading half of Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue. One of those alternative routes was the road in front of Holy Cross College which snakes up in the Tejgaon truck terminal rail gate and intersected in Shatrasta in Tejgaon. Another alternative road was the one at the west side of Bangla Motor which intersects with CR Datta Road, ending up at Green Road in front of Ananda Cinema Hall.
Besides, the road that goes from the east of the Tejgaon Truck terminal to Karwan Bazaar crossing the Pterobangla building and the one that goes up to the TCB building from truck Terminal crisscrossing Karwan Bazaar were thought of as alternative routes.
MAN Siddique, managing director of Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Company Limited, told The Independent that even though those roads were considered as alternative routes, some existing problems make them not a viable option. “Karwan Bazaar is the largest wholesale kitchen market in the capital and remains busy throughout the day. A number of trucks and vans enter the market and release their goods. We have already talked with the bazaar committee and the owners’ association, but they said they can’t help in this regard,” he added.
The road that goes to the Tejgaon truck terminal from Holy Cross College has the extra problem of school traffic. Besides, the two sides of the road are occupied by a number of street vendors. Add to this slow-moving rickshaws, which make movement of vehicles through that road a daunting task.
No alternative solution in sight
Expert told The independent that there is no practical solution to the the traffic gridlock created by the loss of space because of the metro rail construction.
Dr Shamsul Haque, professor of civil engineering at BUET said that Dhaka already has inadequate road structures.
About 69 per cent of the roads of the capital have a width of 8.7 metres (as per the data of Roads and highways), though the standard width of a big city’s roads should be at least 14 metres, as set by the global standard of urban planning.
Referring a BUET study, Haque said a mere 6-8 per cent areas of Dhaka is used as roads, but the global standard says that at least 25 percent area of a big city should be strictly used for vehicular movement.
As per the study of BUET, the capital has the capacity for a maximum of 1.5 lakh vehicles. But in reality, more than 10 lakhs vehicles are plying on the roads and streets of Dhaka, he added.
The total length of the roads of the capital is 1,850 km. If an avaerage length of 15-feet is considered for the movement of motorised vehicles (except motorcycles), the capital needs another 1,800 km of road just to ensure the movement of the existing vehicles, stepping aside the fact that every day about 200 new vehicles get registered and set to be on the road, said Haque.
Data says that there are about 17 million people living in the Dhaka city. If half of these people remain on the streets during daytime, a total of 1.5 sq feet road space is needed to just accommodate them (considering 2 feet for each person).
“So now think these people are on the road and half the road-space of Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue are barricaded for the metro rail project. An increased traffic clog is bound to happen. Alternative routes wouldn’t work because Dhaka’s road networks are designed so haphazardly that the traffic through alternative routes will eventually need to cross major roundabouts and intersections like Saarc Fountain or Bijoy Sarani,” said Haque.
“So until the construction work of metro rail is finished, Dhaka residents have to bear this increased traffic,” he added.