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Hawkers spill onto Sylhet city roads, worsening traffic woes

With illegal hawkers now taking over roads after encroaching upon footpaths, traffic in Sylhet city has taken a chaotic turn, witnessing frequent congestion on roads throughout the day.

Subsequently, the sufferings of commuters have increased over earlier times.

In addition, due to a lack of parking spaces, shoppers in many marketplaces or shopping centres keep their vehicles parked on the streets, ultimately adding to the already deteriorating traffic situation.

Talking to several residents of the city said former mayor Ariful Haque Chowdhury, during his tenure, carried out some activities to free the footpaths from hawkers and evict illegal auto-rickshaw stands. But his efforts yielded no significant result.

The deterioration in traffic conditions has further intensified since the city elections conducted in June. Most of the footpaths and roads have already been occupied by hawkers. After the new mayor Anwaruzzaman Chowdhury assumed office on 7 November, no initiative has been taken so far from the city corporation in the eviction of the hawkers.

Moyezul Islam, a clothes’ vendor in the Zindabazar area of the city, told that in addition to the hawkers, the market owners must also be held accountable for the traffic congestion, as a majority of the markets fail to provide adequate parking facilities.

“The road is frequently congested due to the parking of shoppers’ vehicles,” he said.

Moyezul said he has no capital to take a shop on rent and that is why he sat on the road with his products. “To operate my business here, I have to pay ransom to some individuals”

Earlier, in 2021, Sylhet City Corporation constructed a makeshift market on the banks of Laldighi to rehabilitate the hawkers. Initially, 1,070 hawkers from different areas of the city were shifted there.

However, within a span of two years, the hawkers made a comeback to the roads and footpaths.
City officials attributed the failure to the non-cooperation of the hawkers’ syndicate and the police, and the lack of monitoring of the city corporation.

Additionally, the city’s traffic congestion has been further worsened by the ongoing road renovation works taking place in various parts of the city.

Salahuddin Ahmad, a resident of Sylhet, told that “Even five years ago, there was no such traffic jam in Sylhet. The traffic jams have become unbearable in the last few years. The entire traffic system here has collapsed.”

He expressed fears that if no initiative is taken to curb the traffic jams in Sylhet, the city will also come to a standstill like Dhaka.

Acknowledging the increase in the number of hawkers in Sylhet, Mayor Anwaruzzaman Chowdhury said,have started working on the issue. Discussions are being held with all parties concerned, including hawker leaders.

“Due to the presence of hawkers on the roads, people have to face traffic jams. This problem will be solved within the next month.”

The mayor further said everything necessary to keep Sylhet’s streets free of hawkers will be done.

Additional Commissioner (Traffic) of Sylhet Metropolitan Police Rakhi Rani Das TBS, “The ongoing road widening work is currently the leading factor behind the traffic congestion in Sylhet city. People have to suffer for another month due to the road development project undertaken by the city corporation and the Roads and Highways Department.”

She said the traffic police are working to curb traffic congestion and maintain order on the roads.

Regarding the issue of hawkers, Rakhi said, “The hawkers need to be rehabilitated first. Otherwise, eviction will yield no significant result. In this regard, we are ready for all kinds of cooperation with the city corporation.”