- Project started: 19 March 2020
- Supposed to end: June 2021
- Progress so far: 48.41%.
- Project extended to: June 2022
- Implementing agency: Roads and Highways Department
- Project cost: Tk368cr (entirely funded by the government)
- Commuters suffer due to lack of transportation on the under-construction road
- Number of trips made by the buses on the route per day
- Before the project started: 8-9 trips
- After the project started: 5-6
- Cost of maintenance and fuel for vehicles on the route has increased sharply
- Businesses in the area suffer due to dust from the construction site
Aireen Akter, a private company employee, commutes regularly from Demra to Jatrabari through immense difficulties in finding a means of transport on the road where an upgrading project has been going on since 2020.
Often her wait for public transit turns futile as buses or legunas take an inordinately long time to move through the under-construction road and reach the stoppages. So, despite all her effort Aireen cannot avoid being late for work sometimes.
"This has been going on for around two years. Since the work of the Jatrabari-Demra four-lane project started, people living in this area have been facing great difficulties", said Aireen.
People in that area are even more frustrated over the fact that apparently, the project to upgrade the Demra-Jatrabari Highway into a four-lane road is not going to end anytime soon.
The project to construct a 5.4 km four-lane highway started on 19 March 2020 and was supposed to end by June this year, but it progressed by only around 48.41% so far.
The Roads and Highways Department is implementing the project involving Tk368.87 crore, entirely provided by the government.
Due to the implementing agency's failure to complete the project on time, the government has extended it by one year to June 2022.
Students also face sufferings
Hundreds of students coming from Demra to attend schools in Jatrabari are suffering due to the poor condition of the road.
Sharmin Akter, a ninth-grader in Jatrabari Ideal School and College, said, "Every day we have to wait at least an hour to get a vehicle. We have to start from home around two hours before the school starts, so we can reach there on time."
Yeasin Arafat, another ninth-grader of Jatrabari BPDB Government High School, said, "Our suffering is beyond words. Most of the time we have to walk for around 20-30 minutes to get a vehicle to Jatrabari. We cannot use rickshaws as it is costly for us."
There are many schools and colleges in Jatrabari including Shamsul Hoque Khan School and College, Jatrabari Ideal School and College, Jatrabari BPDB Government High School, Jatrabari Girls High School and students of those institutions are suffering the same way.
Transports counting loss
The locals and commuters claimed that the number of buses and other transport services on the route has decreased significantly due to the ongoing construction work, but the transport workers say that the number of vehicles has remained the same as earlier.
"It is the pathetic condition of the road that has been slowing us down and cutting down the number of trips we can make per day," said Md Monir, a driver of Ranimahal Paribahan (Gulistan to Tarabo bound service).
"Earlier, we could make 8-9 trips per day but now we cannot make more than 5-6 trips," he said, adding that this has also reduced their income to a great extent.
Besides, the maintenance and fuel costs for operating vehicles on the route have risen manifolds because of the poor condition of the Jatrabari-Demra route.
Monir said, "We need to change springs used in suspension and as shock absorbers two times each month. Each spring costs Tk2500-Tk2800. Moreover, earlier we had to spend Tk250 for fuel on each trip but currently, we spend Tk375. Whereas, the fare has remained the same as earlier."
Voicing similar concerns, leguna driver Masum said the poor condition of the roads has pushed up their fuel and maintenance costs and causing them loss.
Businesses in the area are also hit
Md Abdul Momin, manager of the Shadhin Hotel in Demra, said, "Our business hit a snag due to Covid as well as the construction work."
"A thick layer of dust invades the air over that road in the dry season, while mud covers it during the monsoon. So people are reluctant to enter this area. Even the local people try not to come out of home unless they have an emergency," said Momin.
Habibur Rahman, Owner of a bike servicing center in the area, said, once there was a long queue at our shop for getting service but things changed because of the construction work.
"We were very excited when the project started as we hoped to benefit from the wide highway with fast-moving vehicles. But the hope ended with sufferings as our business fell," he added.
The experts opined that a project that affects so many people's life and livelihood should be completed rapidly.
Abdul Haque, director of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce, said, "Such a project should not be delayed as it creates suffering for the people and costs them a lot, which we consider as the hidden cost of a project."
Regarding the matter, Project Director Shamim Al Mamun said, "The pandemic delayed the project but now the work is in full swing and hopefully it will be completed on time."
Once the project completes, buses on Dhaka-Chattagram and Dhaka-Sylhet routes will use the Tarabo-Jatrabari road and they will reach from Jatrabari to Syedabad within 10 minutes.
Currently, these buses use Kanchpur-Signboard Road which eats up a minimum of 1.5 hours due to huge traffic congestion, he added.
On January 22, 2019, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council approved the project to upgrade the Demra-Jatrabari Highway into a four-lane road, intending to ensure smooth vehicle movement by minimising traffic congestion.