Getting to the World Cup on time, Dhaka style
Sunday 27 February 2011
Standing in long queues to enter the Sher-e-Bangla stadium in Dhaka is the least of the problems for thousands of cricket-crazy fans in Bangladesh.
A bigger worry is trying to reach the stadium, in suburban Mirpur, in time to watch the first ball.
First-time visitors to the Bangladeshi capital for the World Cup have been frustrated at Dhaka's notorious traffic jams, where a 10-kilometre (6.2 miles) ride could sometimes take more than two hours.
"I have never seen anything like this," said South African Firdaus Khan, who attended the opening match between India and Bangladesh last Saturday at the start of his own World Cup tour.
Khan left for New Delhi after the match to follow his home team against the West Indies on Thursday.
Dhaka residents laugh away any traffic woes, saying they regarded them as a way of life.
"We are used to it, it's a problem yes, but one can't worry about it," said hotel employee Anisur Rahman.
Rahman said he planned to leave home, barely eight kilometres from Mirpur, by 8 am on Friday for the 2.30 pm start of Bangladesh's match against Ireland.
"Friday is the weekly holiday here, the roads will not be very crowded, but I do not want to take a chance," he said.
Asked what time he expected to return home after the match, Rahman said: "No idea, I am not evening thinking about that."
World Cup teams are spared the trouble as roads are cleared for their heavily-guarded buses, ensuring the eight-kilometre journey from the hotel to the stadium takes barely 20 minutes.
Dhaka is one of the most densely populated cities in the world with a population of 13 million people living in an area of 304 square kilometres (117.4 square miles).
A recent study showed that about 3.2 million business hours were lost every day due to traffic congestion, costing the economy an estimated $1.4 billion annually - one-third of the impoverished nation's annual development expenditure.
Thousands of non-motorised cycle rickshaws jostle with cars, buses, lorries and trucks on the narrow roads, making traffic in Dhaka among the slowest in the world.
A government study done in 2009 to highlight the massive economic toll by congestion on roads revealed that traffic in Dhaka was at a standstill for an average of 7.5 hours a day.
In 2008, the government launched a 20-year plan to transform the city's transport network, including building a metro system, but work on the metro has yet to begin.
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