Truck owners and associations blame local politicians and city corporation’s silence over the decades-long parking fiasco
Illegal truck parking has been a major concern for city dwellers for decades as vehicles parked on the sides of the roads reduce their capacity to nearly half, turning Dhaka into a thoroughfare of traffic and chaos.
Nearly 5,000 trucks, pick-up vans and covered vans enter Dhaka carrying food and construction materials on a daily basis but not all of them leave the city.
Nearly half of them stay in the city and without any designated parking spaces, they occupy roads, lanes and by-lanes, making them narrower, obstructing vehicular movement, especially emergency vehicles like ambulances.
According to drivers, parking on the roadside is not intentional. They are rather forced to do so as most of the time they do not find a spot in the terminals.
One of the truck parking areas located in the city is in Dayaganj and can accommodate merely 150-200 trucks.
Meanwhile, the truck parking space in Aminbazar on the outskirts of the city has the capacity to house nearly 1200 trucks at a time but only accommodates some 500 trucks owing to a major portion of the space being occupied by local politicians and traders who store construction materials there.
Moreover, space at the truck stand has been illegally leased out to shops, resulting in some 2,000 trucks parking on the sides of the roads.
Truck owners and associations blame illegal syndicates taking up parking spaces and the city corporation’s silence over the matter.
"Three-quarters of the Aminbazar Truck Stand have been commandeered by a syndicate of local businessmen and leaders,” says Bangladesh Truck-Covered Van Owners Association President Rustam Ali Khan.
“The city corporation knows it but it does not take any action to free the space so that trucks can park there,” he added.
According to Rustam Ali, despite the 300-truck capacity of the temporary truck stand in Tejgaon, nearly 1,200 vehicles park there everyday, with the line extending from Tejgaon Satrasta to Tejgaon Rail Crossing.
Tejgaon Satrasta, one of the busiest hubs, has also returned to its old self of truckers hogging the sides of the roads.
In 2015, late Dhaka North Mayor Annisul Huq, despite huge pressure, removed the truck stand from Tejgaon and planted trees on either side, turning it into what it is supposed to be: a functional road for unobstructed vehicular movement.
However, the illegal truck stand has once again been established there and now around 1,200 trucks park there every day.
In the same way, nearly 1,000 trucks park on the roads adjacent to the Dayagonj Truck Stand while some 2000 park on the roads at Aminbazar.
A similar picture of trucks lined up on the sides of the road can be seen in Jatrabari, Badamtoli, Shyambazar, Waizghat, Khalpaar and Uttara.
"As per rules, we can enter Dhaka from 10pm and have to leave the city before 8am,” a truck driver at Tejgaon Truck Stand told Dhaka Tribune.
“But we can't always unload all the goods by this time, so where will we go?" he asked.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Truck Covered Van Drivers' Association President Monir Talukdar complained bitterly, "You want to eat rice, potatoes, and fresh vegetables but you don’t want to see the trucks. That can't happen. You [government] have to give us the opportunity to bring in goods.”
DNCC notice to remove Tejgaon truck stand
According to the Bangladesh Truck-Covered Van Owners Association, the Dhaka North City Corporation recently proposed removing the Tejgaon Truck Stand (on 19 bigha of land) and relocating it on land under the Post and Telecommunication Division (27 bigha) jurisdiction on the western side.
"DNCC has sent a letter to the Post and Telecommunication Division but the Post and Telecommunication Division won't be able to hand over its land to the local government (DNCC) without the intervention of the prime minister as one ministry can't hand over land to another,” Rustam Ali Khan said.
He added that even if the approvals went through, it would take at least another two years to complete everything.
He stressed that the association would give up the current location at Tejgaon only if truckers were provided with an alternative one.
According to urban transport expert and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) Civil Engineering Department Professor Shamsul Hoque, the city should have several truck stands where truckers can park and rest before their next trips.
He recommended establishing truck stands within and on the outskirts of the capital before removing the existing illegal ones.
Citizens’ concern for safety
Not only do illegally parked trucks cause traffic disruptions, they also make citizens fear for their safety.
Several pedestrians, especially women, told Dhaka Tribune that they don't feel safe while passing by a truck stand as they fear getting mugged and are often subjected to eve-teasing by truck drivers.
"When I go home from the office at night without a car, I feel scared and uncomfortable walking along the Satrasta area because the truck drivers pass bad comments at me,” says Suchona Ahmed, a private television channel employee.
Kaniz Fatima Ahmed, another working woman, said: "Every time I'm on the road at night, the vibrant colours of the trucks passing by make me fear for my life."
Other than security issues, a majority of people said that roads had become narrower due to the illegal parking and vehicles could not run smoothly because of such a condition.