There was hardly any traffic on the Kadamtali Flyover which goes over the Dhonialpara intersection at 12 noon on October 13, despite the fact that this intersection is one of the busiest in Chattogram City. At that same time there was a two-kilometer long tailback across the intersection just beneath the flyover.
Hardly any vehicles use the flyover which connects Chattogram Railway Station to Dhonialpara Intersection.
Rahmat Ullah, a businessman who was stuck in the jam, said, "Big vehicles go to the Majhirghat area from Dewanhat through Kadamtali. But, there is no ramp giving access to the flyover at Kadamtali. That is why the flyover becomes useless."
Another businessman named Nasir Uddin said, "There is no ramp to get onto the flyover. So, if vehicles from Falmondi want to use the flyover, they have to go through New Market. That is both time and cost consuming. If there was a ramp at the CRB crossing, we could use the flyover."
There is a similar problem at the Bahaddarhat Flyover too.
Local people say there is often a traffic jam on the road from Dhonialpara to Kadamtali because it is used by trucks and inter-city buses. Vehicles cannot use the flyover because there is no way to get onto it at Kadamtali.
Even though the flyovers were built to ease traffic jams in the port city, they have made the problem worse. The roads have become narrow because of the flyovers.
Chattogram Development Authority (CDA) started to build the 1.57-kilometre long Kadamtali flyover in 2012, ignoring its own master plan. It took Tk58.22 crore to complete the project. The flyover was opened for use in 2015.
Before initiating the project, the CDA argued that the traffic jams in Kadamtali would reduce if the flyover is built. The trucks going towards Khantunganj market and Falmondi would use the flyover, easing the traffic jams, the CDA said that time.
But, the development authority did not build any ramp at two important intersections of the city – the CRB and the Kadamtali intersections. It did not even do a feasibility study of the project before starting construction, though it is mandatory to do a feasibility study on any project which costs more than Tk25 crore.
Ahmed Mainuddin, director of the project, said, "I do not know whether the feasibility study of the project was done. I took charge when the construction was about to start."
Bahaddarhat MA Mannan Flyover
The same thing happened at the Bahaddarhat MA Mannan Flyover project as well. The CDA said before starting construction of this flyover that the sufferings of Cox's Bazar and Kalurghat bound passengers would be eased if it is built.
In the plan of 2008, a ramp for Arakan road was supposed to be included in the flyover. Later, it was dropped from the plan.
Then, in 2010, the construction of the flyover from Shulokbahar to Bahaddarhat began. It was opened for use in 2013.
But, when the flyover failed to bring any positive change in the traffic congestion of the area, the CDA decided to build an access ramp for Arakan road. Though the ramp was opened in 2017, the traffic jams remained the same. Since heavy vehicles bound for the BSIC industrial area are not allowed on Arakan road, they cannot use the flyover.
This same flyover took the lives of 14 people and injured several others in 2012 when a girder collapsed during construction.
Objections of urban planners
Several urban planners criticised the logic behind building the flyovers soon after the projects were started.
Experts say that if 5,000 vehicles use an intersection per hour, it should have a circular intersection. And if 8,500 to 10,000 vehicles use it per hour, a channelised intersection has to be built there.
A flyover could be an option if the number of vehicles using the road exceeded the aforementioned number, they said.
But a survey by the CDA found that on average around 2,791 vehicles use the Bahaddarhat Intersection, 4,904 use the GEC Intersection and 2,770 use the Muradpur Intersection every hour.
Delwar Hossain Majumdar, an urban planner and member of the Forum for Planned Chattogram, said, "Nowhere in the world is a flyover built without doing a feasibility study of the project. But the CDA has done it in Chattogram."
"Building flyovers is the last option to reduce traffic jams. There was scope for taking other measures before building the flyovers," said Delwar.
Surveys showed that the numbers of vehicles using the intersections in Chattogram were less than the numbers needed for building a flyover, Delwar added.
Building flyovers was not included in CDA's masterplan. The development authority did it in a very unplanned way, he commented.
CDA in trouble
The development authority of the city is now in trouble because it does not have enough funds and manpower to maintain the flyovers.
The CDA has built four flyovers in the city, and these have now become dens of anti-social elements. Different material, including railings of the flyovers, are being stolen.
Furthermore, the CDA cannot afford to pay the electric bills, which is why the lamp posts on one side of the Akhtaruzzaman flyover are switched off now.
Chattogram City Corporation (CCC) is supposed to take care of all the government establishments in the city. But, the former chairman of the CDA, Abdus Salam, did not hand over the maintenance charge of the flyovers to the CCC. Abdus Salam was the chairman from 2009 to 2018.
The CDA tried to rent out the space and set up shops under the flyovers. But it could not implement this plan because it was opposed by the CCC and the Chattogram Metropolitan Police. Later, the High Court issued a ruling against the CDA's initiative.
After Abdus Salam's departure, the new chairman, M Jahirul Alam, sent a letter to the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) for shifting the maintenance charge to the CCC.
Recently, a decision of giving the charge to the CCC has been taken in a meeting between the ministry, the CCC and the CDA.