Chittagong-based business leaders yesterday threatened to shut down the wholesale hub in Khatunganj and stop transporting goods if the weight limit on the vehicles plying on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway is not lifted within a week.
Members of 18 business organisations formed a human chain in front of the office of the Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) in the port city in the morning.
Besides, traders of Khatunganj kept their business activities closed till 1:00pm to demand solutions to a number of problems, including the weight restriction, they face.
Leaders of the Khatunganj Trade and Industries Association also handed over a memorandum to CCC Mayor AJM Nasir Uddin.
Syed Sagir Ahmad, general secretary of the association, said the mayor has assured them of solving the issues within a week.
In November last year, the Roads and Highways Division stipulated that a six-wheeler truck plying on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway could weigh no more than 22 tonnes, including the goods it is carrying.
Similarly, the weight limit for 10 wheelers was set at 30 tonnes and for 14 wheelers at 40 tonnes.
Addressing a rally during the human chain, Ahmad said if a vehicle's weight is taken into account, a six-wheeler truck can carry only 13 tonnes of goods, down from some 20 to 25 tonnes that could be transported before the load limit was imposed.
As a result, businesses now need to hire an additional truck to transport the same amount of goods, he said. “The weight limit has doubled the transport cost.”
Ahmad called the weight limit discriminatory for Chittagong businesses because it has been imposed only on vehicles that ply on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway.
Mahbubul Alam, president of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Chittagong-based traders were bearing an additional transport cost of Tk 4 per kilogramme.
“We will have no objection if such restriction is imposed on the vehicles plying on the other highways,” he said.
Ahmed Rashid Amu, proprietor of Diamond Dal Mill in Khatunganj, said his trade with other parts of the country has been hampered because of the weight restriction, as dealers and wholesalers from other regions now prefer buying goods from Dhaka-based importers in order to avoid the hike in transport cost.
Ashutosh Mohajan, a chickpea wholesaler, said Dhaka-based importers do not need to bear the extra transport cost as they can move imported goods via waterways after unloading them from bigger vessels at the outer anchorage of the Chittagong port.