Vessels plying the river routes to at least 40 destinations from Barishal, including Dhaka, are facing serious navigability crisis due to decreased flow of water and formation of new shoals in the major rivers of the region.
A few weeks ago, a Dhaka-bound launch from Barguna named ‘MV Shahrukh-2’ ran aground in a shoal of the Meghna river near Kaliganj area in Barishal’s Mehendiganj upazila.
A passenger of the launch Mirza Khalid recalled how they were rescued by another vessel after being marooned for almost nine hours.
“Now the 8-hour journey from Barguna to Dhaka almost became 24 hours long,” he said.
Rahim Mia, driver of a passenger launch that plies the Dhaka-Barishal route on the Meghna river, said his launch got stuck a number of times in the last two months in a shoal near Bhasanchar under Mehendiganj.
Crew member of another vessel that plies the Barishal-Bhola route said, water level at Laharhaat and Shaheberhaat point under Barishal Sadar upazila has become very low, causing river transports to run aground sand bars beneath the surface of Arial Kha river.
Officials of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) admitted that shortage of water flow has created navigability crisis in at least 30 points of different river routes in the Barishal region.
Mizanur Rahman Bhuiyan, superintending engineer of dredging department of BIWTA, said, according to the data collected in recent years, the main rivers carried an average of 1.2 billion tonnes of mud and sand from upstream and 40 percent of the sediments were deposited at different points of the rivers in Barishal region.
This year flash floods in the northern districts caused the rivers to carry more mud and sand downstream and deposit those at the southern parts of the country, he added.
Rezaur Rashid Khandaker, assistant director of the dredging department of BIWTA, told The Daily Star that for the last two weeks 10 dredging machines have been working at 10 points of six rivers--Meghna, Kalabodor, Tentulia, Khakdon, Karkhana and Kirtonkhola.
BIWTA dredging officials informed that, like other years, about 30-lakh cubic metres of mud and sand would be dredged from the thirty points of Barishal regional rivers. Of those, one lakh cubic metres would be collected from Barishal river port area.
Ajmal Huda Mithu, deputy director (DD) of BIWTA’s marine safety and river traffic department, said, river vessels need at least 12-feet deep waterway, but hardly 10-feet depth can be found during low tide in Barishal port.
He said, Dhaka-Barishal passenger launch MV Manami got stuck at the district’s river port area in the last week of October due to poor navigability.
“Therefore, we are trying to ensure 14-feet depth in the surrounding areas of the river port,” he asserted.
He noted that they also have to relocate some launch terminals because of poor navigability.
Patarhaat Launch Terminal under Mehendiganj would be relocated one kilometre away to Mas Kazir Char, said the deputy director.
He admitted that in absence of alternative dumping ground, dredged mud and sand are often dumped in other parts of the rivers, considering its depth and strength of currents.
However, this can sometimes create navigation problem in those points, he added.