Navigability crisis in the Jamuna river badly hampers movement of vessels, much to the inconvenience of cargo boats heading for Baghabari river port in Sirajganj from early November.
A large number of vessels carrying fertiliser, coal, cement and other materials are now going to Nagarbari Ghat in Pabna's Bera upazila for unloading goods although there is lack of required facilities.
Over three lakh tonnes of chemical fertiliser are kept under the open sky at Nagarbari Ghat while over 50 thousand tonnes of fertiliser arrive there every week in the peak Boro season, said Md Rafikul Islam, president of Nagarbari Ghat Traders' Association.
“Ten to 20 vessels are coming here daily as the loaded vessels cannot go to Baghabari port due to poor navigability. Over 200 vessels mostly carrying fertiliser came to Nagarbari Ghat for unloading goods in last one month. As there is no storage facility here, the huge fertiliser is kept under the open sky beside the river,” he added.
“We came from Chattogram port with this vessel carrying 800 tonnes of fertiliser for going to Baghabari but we could not reach there due to poor navigability from Mollar Char point. We came to Nagarbari Ghat to unload fertiliser but it is taking time due to shortage of labourers and trucks,” said Md Shakil Hossain, master of MV Water Hen, a fertiliser carrying vessel.
Md Abdur Rouf, master of another fertiliser-laden vessel MV Aleya Mazid, said at least 20 km river route from Mollar Char point to Baghabari is too risky for loaded vessels due to emergence of a large number of shoals.
“Now the route can be used by vessels carrying up to 300 tonnes of load but we have to carry 800 to 1000 tonnes to keep the transport cost under tolerable level. Due to the situation, we have to halt at Nagarbari Ghat instead of scheduled Baghabari port,” he said.
“Navigability crisis is more serious at seven or eight points of the 45 km river route from Daulatdia to Baghabari. Most vessels are unloaded with the help of lighter vessels at Aricha and Daulatdia,” he added.
The fall of water causes navigability problem at Char Shibaloy, Char Safuria, Char Rafsha, Natun Vatiapara, Koitola, Awalbandh, Nakalia, Panchakola, Char Panchakola, Maladapara, Mohonganj, Andharmanik, Dhulchar, Mollar Char and Ramkrishnapur points of the river every year.
The situation has turned critical at Char Panchakola point during the last one week.
Poor navigability is a common problem in the Jamuna during the dry season and the situation worsens as the vessel owners do not follow our direction, said Md Sazzadur Rahman, assistant director Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), also the in-charge of Baghabari port.
“The BIWTA has given strict instruction not to carry over seven feet draft load in vessels during the dry season when there is poor navigability. But most of the vessels carry 10 to 12 feet draft load and so, the overloaded vessels cannot reach Baghabari port,” he said.
Dredging has already started in the vulnerable points of the river area, he added.