Bangladesh rickshaws get modern makeover

DHAKA, June 24, 2008 (AFP) – The backbreaking job of pedalling a rickshaw in Bangladesh could soon be history with a local company saying it has come up with battery-powered, rechargeable cycles. Bangladesh Diesel Plant, an agricultural farm tool manufacturer owned by the country’s powerful army, says it has created an electric rickshaw and plans to launch it by the end of the year.

The head of the project, Major Abdullah Al Mahmud, told AFP the new rickshaw was a novel way of easing Dhaka’s traffic woes, without hurting the income of those who earn their living by carrying passengers around town.

“It will revolutionise rickshaws in the country, without changing the very shape and size of the age-old colourful vehicle that has become part of our history and culture,” he said.

“The batteries can be recharged just like mobile phones. An overnight charge will last a full day.”

There are an estimated one million cycle rickshaws in Bangladesh. Half of those are in the capital Dhaka, and are often blamed for its severe traffic jams, reputed to be the worst in South Asia.

The three-wheelers — still the cheapest and sometimes only mode of transport that can navigate Dhaka’s narr