Bangladesh Transport & Human Chains

Sunday, 29 April 2018

There’s plenty of transport around Bangladesh, but it’s often lethally unsafe. The Bangladesh accident rate is not appalling against the population numbers, but presumably a large proportion of Bangladeshis never see a road. Against the number of vehicles (1000+ deaths per 100,000 vehicles) it’s amazing, lots of advanced nations have an equivalent figure less than 10.

▲ Bus company offices in Cox’s Bazar.

I travelled by road from Cox’s Bazar to Chittagong and saw plenty of crazy driving and one head on collision. It was the sort you’re expecting all the time when two cars are coming in opposite directions and competing for the same bit of road. If the occupants had seat belts on – which is not at all certain and in fact unlikely – they might have got away with the accident, the cars certainly didn’t. The roads carry lots of traffic, all competing for the same space and often travelling at wildly different speeds, the huge numbers of autorickhaws, ‘tom toms’ in Bangladesh, are often travelling much more slowly than the cars and trucks.

▲… you certainly don’t want to be caged inside a tom tom when an accident happens.

▲ Rickshaws and a tom tom waiting for a train to clear the crossing near the Chittagong Railway Station. The line from Dhaka to Chittagong doesn’t get much further south before it comes to a halt in Dohazari on the northern side of the Sangu River. It doesn’t continue to Cox’s Basar.

▲ Dhaka is probably the rickshaws capital of the world, I wrote about Dhaka’s rickshaws some years ago in Chasing Rickshaw, the coffee table book I produced with photographer Richard I’Anson. There are plenty of them in Chittagong as well, this little gathering is between the train station and Agrabad.

▲ En route to the Sitakunda Shipbreaking Beach we stopped to check out a human chain. When I Googled it ‘human chains’ are very common in Bangladesh as a protest against anything you care to name. Demanding that educational institutions should be nationalized had been one recent one. Today’s human chain stretches along bits of the four-lane road just north of Chittagong as a demand for the government to do something about the appalling accident rate on the Chittagong-Dhaka road.

▲ I’d seen enough enough crazy driving between Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong to confirm why there are so many accidents and I saw plenty more madness behind the wheel in Chittagong itself. There are, of course, a bunch of things that could be done very easily and a bunch more problems which are going to be hard to solve.

▲ They invited me to join in.