The journeys of several millions holidaymakers are likely to be more painful this time than previous years ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr as over 40 per cent of national highways are not in good shape, fear experts and officials.
The situation may take a turn for the worse as meteorologist Abdur Rahman at the Bangladesh Meteorological Department said there is a strong chance of rain before and during Eid as monsoon usually sets in around mid-June.
According to the police headquarters, over six million holidaymakers are expected to leave the capital on the eid occasion. Of them, nearly four million will go home by roads.
Transport expert professor Shamsul Hoque of BUET's Civil Engineering department suggested the government not to allow light vehicles like car, microbus and motorbike on the highways alongside truck, lorry and covered-van, three days before the Eid, for the better use of the highways by passenger buses.
Besides, he said, strong enforcement of law and monitoring by the authorities concerned are necessary to check the violation of traffic rules, overtaking, traffic chaos, plying of unfit vehicles, remove obstacles to smooth traffic and ensure better management at different intersections and entry and exit points of the capital.
Two officials at the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) said they conducted a survey recently on 17,976 km of highways and roads, and found 53.63 per cent in very good shape while the rest problematic, including 20 per cent in poor condition.
They said 57 per cent highways are in very good condition while 43 per cent are problematic which may lead to long tailbacks during Eid home-goers' journeys from and to Dhaka.
The officials said traffic may go out of gear on most highways connected with Dhaka, including Dhaka-Chattogram, Dhaka-Sylhet, Dhaka-Mymensingh, Dhaka-Tangail, Joydebpur-Chandra-Tangail-Elenga, Dhaka Aricha, Dhaka-Rangpur and Dhaka Khulna, five-four days before the Eid.
The holidaymakers heading for Chattogram, Cumilla, Noakhali and Feni are likely to experience unbearable traffic snarls at Sayedabad, Jatrabari Madanpur and Sanarpar crossings, Kanchpur, Sonargaon, toll plazas of Meghna and Gumti Bridges, Madhaiya of Cumilla's Chnadina and Fatehpur near Feni.
The homebound passengers, particularly to southern districts, including Jashore, Kushtia, Satkhira, Khulna, Barishal, Gopalganj and Bagerhat, may have to pass stressful time at Paturia-Daulatdia and Mawa-Kawrakandi ferry terminals waiting for ferries for hours apart from immense sufferings on the roads reaching the ferry terminals from the capital.
The passengers on the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway are also expected to experience painful journeys from Tongi to until crossing Joydebpur intersection due to poor road condition with potholes at many points.
The Eid home-goers of northern districts are also likely to face terrible tailbacks from Savar to until crossing the Bangabandhu Bridge due to the bad shape of the highways at different points and intersections and incomplete repair and construction works.
Besides, Bangladesh police has identified 158 damaged points, including bridges, in capital Dhaka and on national highways across the country, which may hamper smooth vehicular movement ahead of the Eid.
Officials at the police headquarters said it has sent a letter to the road transport and bridges ministry urging it to immediately repair those damaged points.
Contacted, road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader told UNB that he has already instructed the RHD authorities to repair the damaged roads by 8 June ahead of the Eid. "We won't tolerate any negligence in repairing of the roads."
"I also asked officials concerned that the roads must be kept smooth and functional, even amid rain so that thousands of holidaymakers can smoothly go back home to celebrate the Eid festival," he added.
DIG of highway police Atiqul Islam said usually Dhaka-Chattogram highway, Joydebpur-Elenga of Dhaka Tangail Highway witness huge traffic jams due to sudden traffic pressure, traffic disorder, growing number of unfit vehicles as those often go out of order and for bad road condition when the mass exodus of the homebound people begins on the occasion of Eid.
Atiq said they will remain active to maintain traffic rules, ensure discipline at intersections and remove the out-of-order vehicles so that holidaymakers do not suffer on the highways. "We'll try to keep entry and exit points of the Dhaka city clear."
RHD additional chief engineer (maintenance) Abul Kashem said repair works on 1,472 km roads of 154 highways and inter-district roads have been going and some of those will be completed before the Eid.
Professor Moazzem Hossain, director of Buet's Accident Research Institute (ARI), said the government can run ferry services if possible near the bridges on Dhaka-Chattogram Highways, ensure traffic discipline and strong monitoring in the jam-prone areas and intersections by the Roads and Highways Department and highway police as short-time solutions to ease traffic jams during the Eid.
"But, the long-term solution is to increase the capacity of railway and the waterways. If the government can ensure intercity trains every hour among major cities, it'll reduce pressure on the highways. Besides, the waterways can play a vital role in reducing traffic jam if those are used in a planned way," the expert said.