Road digging in Babu Bazar of Old Dhaka has put local residents and businessmen in a state of sore distress.
Excavation for repairing drainage lines on the stretch of road from the Babu Bazar footbridge to Islampur has been going on for several months, blocking traffic and causing woes to pedestrians.
Almost all the roads in Old Dhaka – the oldest part of the capital – are narrow and prone to heavy traffic congestion. The situation turns worse during the monsoon due to the resultant waterlogging.
An on-spot visit reveals that the markets on both sides of the road accommodate a multitude of wholesale and retail shops, which have to carry in and out heavy goods regularly through small pickup vans.
According to traders, goods transportation halted completely after the road digging began. In addition, regular customers have been avoiding the shops in this neighbourhood due to the hassle caused by the construction work.
Kefayat Ullah, an apparel trader, told The Business Standard (TBS) that clothing consignments are heavy and need pickup vans or mini trucks for carriage.
"There is no way for me to bring in new products to my shop as the road technically does not exist. I bring in a small volume of products by hand in phases. But on a rainy day, the road becomes so muddy that I get terrified thinking the clothes could drop from my hands," he said, adding that the excavation work has dampened his daily business.
The Mitford-Babu Bazar Road, a key road in the area, lacks a sound sewerage system. Rickshaws, pushcarts and mini trucks are often parked on the narrow road. Frequent loading and unloading of goods lead to gridlocks.
Locals said digging up such a busy road is like pouring water on a drowned mouse for them. Pedestrians – the elderly and ailing in particular – traders, and day labourers are being harassed on a daily basis by such conditions.
Rafique-un-Nabi, a sexagenarian man who sells a variety of clothes, including pyjamas and punjabis at intersections, said, "The digging work has put me out of business as sales have gone down drastically."
"I am all for development but the lingering digging work has become very painful. On top of that, it is not right to cause so much trouble to residents. Sewerage pipes should be fixed in winter rather than in monsoon when the chance of rains is high," he added.
Asked about the problems, Dhaka South Ward-32 Councillor Abdul Mannan said, "I know that the road is really important as it is connected to various markets and Mitford Hospital. The road has been dug up mainly to improve the drainage system and eradicate waterlogging."
"I have asked the contractor to expedite the construction work," he said, expressing his hope that the work will be completed soon.
In response to a query about why road development works are carried out in the monsoon, the councillor said, "We do not know why the city corporation chooses this time of year for such works, but it is true that it causes more suffering to residents."