A narrow 40-year-old bridge at Chengakandi in Sonargaon upazila has turned into the source of agony for commuters.
This bridge, now old, rickety and risky, was constructed over a small canal that has long been filled up in Pirojpur union. Accidents occur regularly on the bridge due to its dilapidated condition.
The bridge is located just beside the road leading to Chengakandi, Mridhakandi, Nagergaon and Chohissa villages of Pirojpur union on the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway. It sticks out like a sore thumb.
On one side under the bridge is the boundary wall of Sony SR Company while a sawmill’s road occupies the other side. From the lowland left unoccupied, one can hardly say a canal or a stream ever existed here. No water reaches the canal from high tide even during the monsoon.
The bridge is so narrow that only one rickshaw can cross it at a time. When one rickshaw enters the bridge, the rickshaw at the other end must wait. As a result, quarrels and brawls often break out.
Sometimes pedestrians are injured by rickshaws and motorcycles crossing the bridge. Passengers on rickshaws also get hurt when the rickshaw falls into the ditch through the broken railings.
Locals, who spoke to the correspondent, said the bridge is not needed anymore, and suggested building a road in its stead to facilitate smooth commuting.
“The bridge was built almost 40 years ago for pedestrians. As the roads improved, people started crossing the bridge on vehicles,” said Nowab Prodhan, a resident of Chengakandi village.
“No step has been taken even after we approached the ward member and union parishad chairman numerous times to tear down the bridge and build a road,” he said.
Nuruzzaman Nuru, member of ward number 5, said Chairman Masudur Rahman Masum is aware of the situation and accused him of not doing anything.
Pirojpur Union Parishad Chairman Masum could not be reached for comments.
A young man of Boalkhali upazila in the district has turned around his fortunes by cultivating Malta on Jaisthapura hill in Amuchia area.
Alongside sweet Malta, Lokman Azad, 30, is also farming China orange, Thai mango, dragon fruit, date and other fruits on his 90 decimals of land on the hill.
His initiative has encouraged many youths of the area to become self-employed by farming.
Lokman said he had an interest in botany from his childhood. In school life, he planted fruit trees on his house yard.
He said he could not continue education after completion of his Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) examination.
But without sitting idle, he said, he set up a poultry farm to earn his livelihood and later went for the Malta cultivation.
He bought a 90-decimal land in the hilly area and also started a dairy farm and cultivation of Malta, lemon and other fruits, he said.
He said the upazila agriculture officer suggested to him that as Malta is a lemon-type fruit and the land of the area is suitable for cultivating this type of fruit, he could benefit from Malta cultivation. Following his suggestion, Lokman started Malta farming in June 2017.
“First I planted 400 Malta trees. Seeing the prospect of profit, I also planted another 100 trees. I bought each grafting tree at Tk 120 from Hathazari’s Foteyabad Nursery. I’ve invested a total of Tk 20 lakh here. At present, the age of each tree is 3 years. I started selling Malta from the third year though I started getting fruit from the second year. There were 100-200 Maltas from each tree though I was supposed to get 500 from each,” Lokman said.
“In the first year, I got 5 percent fruits, 40 percent in the second year and 50 percent in the third year (running year). I expect, there’ll be 100 percent production next year. Now, I seek government help so that I can cultivate Malta on a larger scale which will help the demand of the fruit across the country,” he added.
Several orchard owners of the area said the cultivated Malta of the area is sweet and juicy. For that the demand among the fruit sellers has increased. Malta from the area is being sold in different markets across the country.
Lokman’s initiative has already encouraged many youths in the area to follow suit, said locals.
Atik Ullah, Boalkhali upazila agriculture officer, told UNB that several farmers are cultivating Malta in the upazila for the last 2-3 years. Among them, Lokman has been popular in the area for Malta cultivation.
“From the agriculture office, we always try to cooperate with the farmers. From the office, there was also an initiative for training on Malta farming. Besides, saplings of Malta have been provided among farmers,” he said.
With a target of cultivating 1800kg of Malta, Lokman Azad was able to produce 1600kg of Malta last season. In the current season, the output is most likely to exceed the target.
Atik Ullah said they have a plan to help the fruit farmers transport and market their produces easily.
Besides, he said, the Agriculture Department will help them get the fair prices of Malta.
Businesses are taking advantage of the increasing demand for warm clothes amid a bone-chilling weather which is likely to continue for a few days more.
People are thronging the markets and makeshift stalls on Dhaka’s footpaths to buy clothes for winter, prompting sellers to hike prices.
Vendors said they have also stockpiled colourful winter wears to attract buyers.
A large number of people were seen at shopping centres and markets in Gulistan, Bangabazar, Chawkbazar, New Market, Elephant Road, Baitul Mokarram Mosque area, Mouchak and Bashundhara shopping complex.
Makeshift shops on footpaths are doing brisk sales.
Traders said buyers are more interested in sweaters, jackets and shawls that have hit the stands recently. Anis Hawlader, a salesman in Bangabazar, said they usually get good response from customers during chilly days.
“The price of each blanket increased by Tk 20-100 thanks to the cold weather,” he said.
Anis said they are now selling a local blanket at Tk 90-500 and imported one at Tk 450 to Tk 4,000. “We’ll keep selling the items until February,” he added.
Ariful Islam, a trader from New Market, said business is brisk because of several days of severe cold. “Our sale has been good in the last four days. We hope to sell warm clothes for another two months,” he added.
Jatrabari resident Hasan Mia said he bought clothes for himself and his children from the market. “I bought these because of severe cold. We don’t know when the weather will improve,” he added.
The demand for winter cosmetics items such as petroleum jelly, moisturiser cream, lotion, lip balm and glycerin has also gone up.
Jasim Uddin, general secretary of Polwel Super Market (an imported apparel business hub of the country), said they were selling only imported high-end clothes.
“The sales increase if there’s severe cold. Our sales have been great in the last several days because of the cold wave. It’ll increase further if the cold persists,” he added.
It took only three months for Mir Jumla Sarak, adjacent to Digubabu Bazar area, to return to its ‘original’ state – filthy, congested, and hard to navigate.
About three months ago, police freed the road after several rounds of drives. People going to Narayanganj College, Narayanganj High School, T&T office, launch and bus terminals prefer this route.
“But makeshift markets usually keep the road occupied throughout the year,” a local man said, declining to be named.
Continuous eviction drives helped keep the road free and clean to some extent for several months. But now, a large number of makeshift shops have occupied the road and are dumping wastes there.
During a recent visit, the UNB Correspondent found that the road has turned into waste dumping zone, making it very hard for people to move in the area.
Vehicles cannot enter as the road became narrow thanks to illegal occupation.
Some of the shops’ owners were extremely rude to this correspondent and said that running reports on the road’s condition will be in vain.
People said a former district police chief removed all makeshift shops from the road but after he was transferred, the shop owners occupied the place again. They have since been dumping wastes on the road.
Locals blamed the lack of supervision by authorities concerned for the sorry state of the key road and demanded freeing it as soon as possible.
Shyamal, the cleaning inspector of Narayanganj City Corporation, said a number of chicken traders set up shops on the road, preventing waste collection vehicles of the city corporation from entering the area.
“That’s why there are wastes on the road. Necessary measures will be taken to remove the garbage as soon as possible,” he said.
A doorway of new possibilities is set to open for flower farmers of Gadkhali in Jashore, distinguished as the Flower Capital of the country, where the government is establishing the first flower processing centre and a modern flower market.
Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are jointly building the modern flower market and cooling chamber spending Tk 19 crore.
Although the slow progress of the project is making the local flower farmers fidgety but a new hope of future prosperity is predominating their minds.
The flower business commercially started in Gadkhali of Jhikargasa in 1983 that is currently meeting 70 percent of the overall demand of the country. The flower cultivation subsequently spread to different places of the country.
The livelihood of more than around one lakh people of Gadkhali and its adjacent areas were revolving around flower farming.
The local flower farmers have been looking for a specialised cold storage and modern market in the area for a long time as it has been hindering their route to profit in the season.
Meanwhile, LGED Executive Engineer of Jashore Mirza Iftekhar Ali said the project was launched in 2015 and they hope to complete it within 2020.
Centering the flower garden, the government has also taken different development projects for easy road transportation around the flower market areas, he added.
Different modern technologies will be used in the Flower Processing Centre that would facilitate the farmers to package and grade the flowers. The farmers will be provided with proper training and modern cooling chamber that would be used to reserve the packaged flowers for future sale.
Flower farmer Sher Ali said, “I thought we would be benefitted from the centre in the current season but the building process is yet to be completed.”
He urged the government to finish the work quickly.
Bangladesh Flower Society President Abdur Rahim said, “We’ve suffered a lot due to the lack of modern flower processing..Now we want its quick completion.”