Bera Municipality in Pabna: Mayor running illegal ‘river port’
A municipality mayor has established what appears to be a small port on the Hurasagor river at Brishalikha in Pabna’s Bera upazila.
Municipality Mayor Abdul Baten, also president of Bera Awami League, constructed a one-storey building, bearing a signboard, reading, “Brishalikha Non-Government Raj Ghat”, on the bank of the river to manage the loading and unloading of goods from vessels and lorries.
On the other hand, the state-run Baghabari River Port, only about 10km away, is being deprived of revenue due to the diversion of river traffic to the unregulated “port”, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) officials said.
“According to rules, only the BIWTA can operate a river port,” Rafikul Islam, additional director of the BIWTA, told the Daily Star.
BIWTA officials said they repeatedly sent letters in the last few years requesting the authorities concerned to take action regarding the matter. But nothing has changed.
At an authorised river port, labourers, river routes, and vessels are managed by the BIWTA, Rafikul said, adding that the truckers and vessel owners also have to pay a fee to load and unload goods.
Sohrab Hossain, representative of a goods-transport company named, Poton Traders, said, “If we unload a vessel at Baghabari port, we must pay a hefty toll, which is too much for us. But we can easily unload goods at Brishalikha ghat, paying a lot less.”
Companies have to pay Tk 34.5 for each tonne of unloaded goods at Baghabari port, according to officials.
“The charge is a big revenue source for the BIWTA. But due to poor activities at the Baghabari port, the government is facing losses,” said SM Sazzadur Rahman, in-charge of Baghabari port.
Transport company spokesperson Sohrab didn’t disclose how much he was saving by avoiding the proper river port. Several other goods-transport company representatives met by this correspondent also didn’t specify the amount they were paying at Brishalikha ghat.
He added that people are often unable to unload goods quickly at Baghabari port due to a lack of workers. “But in Bera, we don’t face that problem.”
At Brishalikha ghat last week, this correspondent found some 8 to 10 vessels loaded with cement, food grains, and fertilisers being unloaded.
Asked, Bera Upazila Nirbahi Officer Asif Anam Siddique said, “Brishalikha Ghat is being operated by the Bera Municipality, it’s not a part of the upazila administration. We are not concerned about the ghat.”
Municipality Mayor Abdul Baten said, “According to the local government act, the revenue earned from the ghat must go to the local government authorities. Brishalikha ghat is located in the Bera municipality area, so the municipality authorities are collecting the revenue.”
He claimed that the activities had been going on at Brishalikha ghat for decades.
He added that the BIWTA’s permission was not needed as they were not doing anything new.