Dredging was done in the beginning of this year to improve navigability in the Payra river near Barguna's Amtali upazila town. At that time, bamboo fencing was erected in the middle of the river. Because of this fence, hundreds of vessels now have to navigate around it every day. At least 50 accidents have been recorded in the last six months.
Originating from the Bay of Bengal, the Payra river is connected to the waterways of Barishal and Dhaka. Hundreds of water vehicles, including passenger launches, fishing trawlers, and cargo ships ply the route.
To alleviate the navigability crisis, the dredging department of BIWTA (Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority) started dredging here in mid-December last year. At this time, the excavated sand of the river was thrown into the river on a bamboo mat. The bamboos are now standing and the water vehicles plying on this route often get stuck in those bamboos. Accidents are often caused by bamboos submerged in water, especially at night and during high tide.
During a visit in the the area on Friday, it was seen that bamboo and mat fences have been erected along the river in a stretch of about 1 km in a triangular shape. During low tide, the bamboo fence stands about one and a half to two feet above the water. Due to these bamboo and mat fences, ferries, fishing trawlers, small and medium-sized boats, cargo vessels have to travel around one to one-and-a-half-kilometer alternative route. It also wastes the time and increases the fuel costs of the fishermen and other sailors to navigate the river many times over.
Ferdous Mia, a trawler driver on the ferry ghat, said "The sand had been dumped into the river with a bamboo and mat fence. Previously we could traverse the stretch during high tide. But now due to the bamboo fence, collisions with the bamboos at night and at high tide cause damage to the boat."
Abdus Salam Khan, the ferry's lessee, said the authorities have been dredging the river for the last three years. There is no benefit in that. Late last year, the sand of the river was dumped in the river with a bamboo fence. This did not help improve the navigability; it was just a wastage of money.
Mamun Ar-Rashid, port officer for Barguna BIWTA said the excavated sand had been dumped in the river without finding a place on the ground. So, the river was fenced with bamboo and mats.
Abu Bakar Siddique, Barishal division executive engineer for BIWTA, said there was no chance of removing the mats and bamboo fences along the Payra river at the time of excavation. The matter will be considered during the next excavation.