Goods-laden trucks rushing to cross Sylhet city through the busy Amberkhana intersection continue to claim lives, with two persons being killed in two separate accidents last week.
"Although there is no formal data, as many incidents go unreported, five died and many were injured in road accidents at the intersection in the last three months. Such incidents are continuing. If trucks drive through the intersection, people will keep suffering," said Abdul Karim Kim, coordinator of Sankhubdha Nagorik Andolon.
Authorities were supposed to resolve this issue a decade ago by building a by-pass road for trucks. But after spending crores of taka, the project was suddenly halted. The trucks, however, continued their reckless practice.
The question locals ask after each death is "why do authorities not come up with a concrete solution for this severe problem?"
Barring trucks from entering the city was planned back in 2006. The solution was to construct the bypass road for them.
To reach the national highway via Amberkhana, truckers need to drive 11.2 kilometres from Sylhet Airport bypass point to Temukhi Bridge at Kumargaon.
Construction of the 12km bypass road from Airport to Kumargaon via Badaghat area started in August 4, 2010, with a budget of Tk 45 crore. But after spending 27.5 crore till 2014, the construction came to a halt for unknown reasons.
According to Roads and Highways Department in Sylhet, a proposal for a four-lane road was forwarded to the ministry in 2016.
To assess the proposal, a team -- led by Md Zakir Hossain, additional secretary (planning) of Roads and Highways Division of the ministry -- visited the road on August 8 last year and submitted a report on August 17, recommending a two-lane road.
As Sylhet residents criticised the recommendation, the ministry is now planning a four-lane road, RHD officials confirmed.
SCC Mayor Ariful Haque Chowdhury said, "RHD has been playing with the issue since 2006. They couldn't even complete construction of the two-lane bypass and are now planning for a four-lane. There's a road, Dhopagul to Haripur via Sahebbazar, which can be used as an alternative by upgrading it. I will be sending the proposal to the ministry soon."
Faruque Mahmud Chowdhury -- president of Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik, Sylhet chapter -- said, "Until the bypass road is ready, trucks should be allowed in the city after 11pm, and should remain within speed limit of 20 km per hour."
Ritesh Barua, executive engineer of RHD in Sylhet, said, "The ministry forwarded us the design of a four-lane bypass road, and we're working to prepare a Detailed Project Plan now. We will submit it soon. Once the DPP is approved, we'll start constructing the bypass."
The Amberkhana intersection for decades has only provided narrow access for vehicles, due to four illegal auto-rickshaw stands, uncontrolled parking and hawkers occupying parts of road. In addition to the problem, hundreds of goods-laden trucks from two upazilas are bound to use this intersection to cross the city to reach the national highway.
These trucks are permitted only to enter the city area after 8pm. As they have to wait hours before crossing the city, they start rushing and cause accidents often.
In the last 14 years, Amberkhana intersection has been expanded by nearly double its original width, but traffic flow and other issues grew even more. To resolve the narrow access, SCC and Sylhet Metropolitan Police's traffic section are now looking for new solutions.
Faisal Mahmud, deputy commissioner (traffic) of SMP, said, "A new instruction of 'no drop and pick-up' within 100 metres of the intersection will be imposed soon."
However, SMP was not sure what it can do about the auto-rickshaw stands.
The mayor added, "We are now planning for a designated parking zone and looking for a suitable solution for the illegal auto-rickshaw stands."
While citizens blame rushing trucks for accidents and deaths, they also included lack of awareness while driving motorcycles and crossing or walking by the road as a cause of death.
Faruque said, "Motorcycle riders are reckless nowadays. The number of unpermitted auto-rickshaws is quite large, and violation of traffic rules is going up. Stern implementation of road transport laws can help raise awareness."
Mayor Ariful also called for strict implementation of the new Road Transport Act 2018, and SMP Deputy Commissioner (traffic) Faisal Mahmud agreed with his position.