SUCCESSIVE governments have failed to gauge the importance of dredging of the major rivers and tributaries in the country. That negligence has finally caught up with us. As per what has been discussed in the parliament on June 18, we are informed that navigability in nearly 7,500 km of waterways has been lost over the last four decades. Now that presents policymakers with a big headache since internal waterways constitute a major trade route and loss of navigation over such long stretches is hardly acceptable. We are informed by the minister of shipping that the government has undertaken measures to bring back the navigability of 53 major rivers at a cost of Tk11,500 crores to the national exchequer.
While we appreciate the efforts of authorities to undo the damage done over time, we remain concerned as to whether dredging alone will redress the situation. According to the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), waterways have shrunk significantly since 1975. There are many reasons for this and not all are due to change in global climate. Manmade interventions through the building of gigantic dams in upstream countries are causing havoc with the major rivers in Bangladesh. Whilst we take issue on these with the neighbouring country, we can certainly prioritise the dredging of our rivers on a regular basis. That would in part go a long way in reducing the various accidents that occur at regular interval on our rivers and save lives. Proactive measures to protect our rivers must be a priority area for the government.