Bracing for traffic jam
Despite no buses plying the roads, the capital is still witnessing heavy traffic amid the "lockdown". If that is the scenario right now, when buses start running from Thursday, Dhaka may once again turn into a city of traffic jams, city dwellers fear.
Restrictions were imposed on movement of people and public transportation on April 5, to contain the second wave of Covid-19. The restrictions had then been extended until May 5 in phases. Yesterday, they were was once again extended till May 16, but with a directive to resume intra-district bus services from May 6
However, roads and shopping malls are already crowded with vehicles and people amid the restrictions, ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr.
Yesterday, heavy traffic congestion was seen on Mirpur road, Pragati Sarani, Gulshan, Banani, Mohakhali, New Market, Elephant road, Bangla Motor, Panthapath, and Karwan Bazar areas.
The congestion got heavier during office hour -- in the morning and afternoon.
Talking to this correspondent, Riaz Uddin, employee of a private organisation, said resumption of public transportation may help office-goers commute, but it will also increase traffic jams.
"Currently, I'm seeing no restrictions on roads actually. Private cars, auto-rickshaws, covered-vans, trucks, staff buses, and motorbikes -- all are plying on the roads. If buses also start running, the city may return to its previous scenario," said Riaz.
Nurul Islam, another job-holder who commutes on ride-sharing motorbikes, said his costs for commuting to office rose threefold, as public buses are not running. If the service is resumed, it would help members of lower-middle income group, as they have no alternative but to go to work.
The government-imposed "lockdown" appears to be in place on paper only, as there is little to no restrictions being implemented in reality, he said.
Some said resumption of public transportation will pose a risk of spreading coronavirus more, as buses carry more passengers.
Traffic police were seen busy at some key intersections like Bijoy Sarani, Karwan Bazar, Manik Mia Avenue, Shahbagh, Kalabagan, and Nilkhet areas, to control tailbacks.
Meanwhile, sellers at different shopping centres and malls think that the number of customers may increase from Thursday, when intra-district public transport services resume.
They said many customers from the city and surrounding districts of Dhaka would rush to the markets ahead of Eid.
Visiting some major shopping malls and markets in Dhaka -- including New Market, Chandni Chawk, Gausia, Noor Mansion, Metro Shopping Mall and Bashundhara City Mall -- yesterday, The Daily Star correspondents found customers pouring into shops from 11am.
At most shopping centres, maintaining health and safety rules appeared to be a big challenge due to the heavy flow of customers.
In the afternoon, the crowd got heavier in the markets.
To attract more customers ahead of Eid, shop owners demanded business hours be extended till 12am, keeping iftar time in mind.
Talking to this correspondent, a police official, wishing not to be named, said they now rarely check for movement pass, as it may increase tailback on the streets.
"However, random checking of vehicles is going on," he added.