Chattogram businesses have threatened to shut down wholesale product markets and the movement of freight vehicles if the new weight restriction on the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway is not lifted within seven days.
Traders closed shops in the Chaktai and Khatunganj areas on Sunday and held a rally to press for the demand.
They then marched to the city corporation offices, occupied the area and delivered a signed petition to the mayor giving a seven-day deadline to fulfill their demands.
The traders say that a new weight limit had been imposed at the Boro Darogahat of the highway in addition to the one at Daudkandi. No other highways have implemented such a system, they said.
Previously freight vehicles could carry between 20 and 30 tonnes, but now cannot carry more than 13 tonnes, they said.
This has led to an increase in the cost of two-way transportation and has disincentivised wholesale traders and bringing goods to the Chattogram market.
The signed petition submitted to the mayor by 27 institutions, including the Khatunganj Trade and Industries Assocation, and groups representing traders and transport owners, had a total of four demands, which include raising the weight limit and overcoming the shortage of water and gas in industrial areas.
Traders in Chattogram are facing ‘various forms of discrimination’ in comparison to traders in other regions of the country, said Khatunganj Trade and Industries Association General Secretary Syed Saghir Ahmed after delivering the petition. This has led to an ‘unfair business environment’ that is harming the finances of Chattogram’s traders, he said.
“If the new weight limit on the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway is not withdrawn, we will shut down all businesses in Khatunganj. We will also halt freight traffic on the highway.”
Inter-District Truck and Covered Van Owners Association Organising Secretary Sufiur Rahman Tipu said that previously 10,000-12,000 vehicles were needed for freight transport to and from Chattogram. The new limits have doubled the number of trips necessary, he said.
He also alleged that the weight measurements at Daudkandi and Boro Darogahat were inconsistent, causing vehicles measured to be under the weight limit in Daudkandi being fined at Boro Darogahat for crossing the weight limit.
Chattogram Mayor AZM Nasir Uddin accepted the traders’ petition and expressed his solidarity with their demands.
“Though a weight limit has been implemented on the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway, it has not been imposed on any other highway in the country. This has comparatively raised the cost of freight transport in Chattogram.”
The mayor assured the traders he would discuss the matter with the Road Transport minister and secretary.