Businesses in Khatunganj, one of the largest wholesale markets in the country, have suffered around Tk500 crore loss due to the impact of cyclone Sitrang, said the traders.
Storm surge inundated 90% shops and warehouses in Chaktai and 50% in Khatunganj areas during cyclone Sitrang on 24 October, ruining consumer goods including onion, garlic, ginger, spices, rice, pulses, and wheat, said the traders at a meeting of Chaktai Khatunganj Wholesaler General Traders Welfare Association in the port city on Thursday.
General secretary of the association Mohammad Mohiuddin said large parts of the markets in Chaktai, Khatunganj and Asadganj areas were inundated during cyclone Sitrang as the under construction sluice gates of Chaktai and Rajakhali canals had not come into operation.
Mohammad Mohiuddin further said the narrow sluice gates under construction are having a negative impact on the trade in Khatunganj. The cost of transporting goods has increased as large boats cannot enter through these gates. This especially creates problems in transporting goods to and from Barishal, Bhola, Kutubdia, Maheshkhali, Hatia, and Sandwip areas.
Once 90% of trade in Chaktai and Khatunganj areas was done through naval routes, but recently it has come down to only 10%, he said.
Leaders of the business organisation also alleged that traders in Chattogram are facing discrimination due to the weight scale on the Dhaka-Chattogram highway.
Six-wheeler trucks and covered vans cannot carry over 13 tonnes of goods because of the weight scales at Daudkandi in Cumilla and Darogahat in Sitakunda on the Dhaka-Chattogram highway, but there are no such barriers in anywhere else in the country, alleged the traders and demanded immediate withdrawal of these barriers.
On the night of cyclone Sitrang on 24 October, water several feet higher than the normal tide started entering the Chaktai canal. At around 9 pm that night, tidal water started entering Khatunganj, Asadganj and Chaktai areas and within an hour inundated the markets in those areas.