It usually takes Zahir 40 minutes to reach his office in Banani from Banasree. But, for the last few days, he has been running late for work due to unbearable traffic congestions.
He blamed the situation on the never-ending development projects involving rampant road digging in different areas of the city.
Recently, the two city corporations of Dhaka have approved over 300 road digging proposals. City corporation officials said there is a high possibility that some of those roads will be dug during July and August.
As a result, the city dwellers' sufferings will greatly intensify during the monsoon, much like the previous years.
That, however, does not mean there will be respite from sufferings in the pre-monsoon months. The ongoing road digging projects as well as the upcoming Higher Secondary Certificate examinations and Ramadan – both starting in April – will aggravate the situation.
Dhaka North approves digging of 262 roads
In a recent conversation with The Business Standard, Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) Executive Engineer Saidur Rahman said construction and development projects are underway in eight DNCC roads.
"Most of the work is almost done, and the areas have been filled with sand and brick chips," he said adding that some new roads are being dug now.
In January, the DNCC approved proposals involving digging of 262 roads.
"Most of the roads will be dug in Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara and Badda for development projects of Dhaka Power Development Company, Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority, Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company, and Dhaka Electric Supply Company," Saidur said.
"Unless it is necessary, we do not approve road digging from May to September, considering inconveniences of city commuters during the rainy season," he said.
Seeking anonymity, a DNCC official said 48 road proposals approved at the city corporation's 34th meeting – which was held on January 22 – are being delayed for various reasons, which means development work may continue during the monsoon.
15 roads being dug in Dhaka South
Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) officials said 15 roads under the DSCC jurisdiction are currently being dug by different government agencies.
In addition, 50 road digging proposals were approved between October last year and January this year, and their execution will begin soon.
Seeking anonymity, a DSCC executive engineer said road digging will increase as many development projects were unofficially halted due to the city corporation elections.
No long-term road digging plans
Experts said there is no long-term plan for road digging in Dhaka. That is why roads are dug in an unplanned way.
"The authorities approved different road digging proposals without ensuring their coordination with the government's plans," said Adil Mohammed Khan, general secretary of the Bangladesh Institute of Planners.
The same roads are sometimes dug multiple times by different government agencies due to unplanned road digging and this results in acute public sufferings at the cost of government funds, he complained.
The urban expert said public sufferings could be reduced and government funds could be saved if medium- and long-term plans are chalked out for road digging.
"Coordination is the key to solving the problem. For example, all long-term plans by different government agencies will be submitted to the city corporations. Then the city corporations will approve all the development projects at the same time in a given area.
"This way, the same roads will not be dug time and again," explained Adil.
Contractors' tendency not to finish their work within the deadline also adds to public sufferings. They take as long as they want to finish a project since there is no penalty.
Adil said the two city corporations will have to increase coordination before approving road digging proposals.
"The city corporations have failed in ensuring coordination, resulting in acute sufferings of the people," he said, adding that rain will only add to the inconveniences.
"Three government agencies – Dhaka Electric Supply Company Limited, Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority, and Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited – will have to dig around 1,200 kilometres of road in a year or two. But we are not giving them permissions at the same time," Khondoker Mahbub Alam, DNCC superintending engineer (civil), told The Business Standard.
"Permissions are given in phases in order to reduce public sufferings," he said.
Mahbub said lack of coordination among government agencies and different project timings is one of the key reasons behind unplanned road digging in Dhaka.