Roads and highways in this country are not foreign to intractable tailbacks but what the Dhaka-Chattogram highway has been experiencing over the past one and a half weeks is unprecedented. A gridlock as long as 114 kilometres does paint not only a negative picture of the transportation system in the country but also its impact -both physical and psychological -- on passengers as well as trade and commerce is devastating. For five days the traffic congestion continued to extend with no forward movement. Slightly eased, its snowballing effect has badly hampered traffic movement on other routes such as Dhaka-Sylhet highway. All because of the construction of an overpass at Fatehpur in Feni. A week's loss count on account of man-hour waste and suffering together with delay in shipment of export goods is likely to be enormous. Apart from the big picture, there are small stories of pains and ordeals passengers and transport workers were subjected to on account of this long traffic jam. The failure of the system may be impassive to such details but at times those turn out to be a matter of life and death for many.
Now why does the system fail here so frequently? The answer in short is lack of vision. In this particular case, the necessity of an overpass at the Fatehpur point could not be the product of an afterthought. It had to be visualised at the time of undertaking the project of expanding the Dhaka-Chattagram highway into four lanes. If that was the case, the construction of the overpass could go on simultaneously with the highway expansion. When one side of the road was under construction, the overpass on that side could as well be taken up for readying. It would not have affected traffic any more than the lane expansion work did. But now the four-lane provision has failed to provide any leeway for alternative traffic movement.
Usually when bridges or culverts, roads and highways are repaired, broadened and constructed, temporary bypasses or alternatives to those are arranged in order to keep the traffic on the busy routes moving. The pace becomes slow at the particular points and still the situation is managed somehow. Here was not an emergency arising out of collapse of such a structure or landslide. Yet, there was no second or third plan ready to meet the challenge. This is unfortunate. In such cases, a plan must be taken well ahead in order to avert a crisis like this. No plan devised after the problem has embroiled the situation is of much use.
This is, however, a familiar practice here. There is no confusion when the festival time is. The biggest festival Eid-ul-Fitr is just round the corner. But still the country's roads and highways are left unattended during the dry seasons. Funds are released for their repair only months before and by the time the actual repair work begins, the festival time is on. There have been reports galore that roads and highways are in a deplorable condition all across the country. A segment of Faridpur-Barisal highway reportedly started developing potholes, cracks and even gave in at several places immediately after its repair due to poor work and use of substandard construction materials. Here is yet another area that must be addressed with an iron hand.
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