Shimulia-Kathalbari: Heavy vehicles stranded for disruption in ferry service
More than 500 heavy vehicles remained stranded at the Shimulia-Kathalbari terminals as ferry service had been disrupted for the third straight day yesterday due to poor navigability in a stretch of the Padma.
While normally, 21 ferries operate through the Shimulia-Kathalbari river-route, only eight small ferries -- Ketoki, Kakoli, Kasturi, Kapoti, Kishori, Dhaka, Comilla and Faridpur -- were being used to carry small and light vehicles.
The ferries were moving through a naturally formed channel marked by Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) beside the main Louhajang channel.
The Louhajang channel and its alternative channel were being dredged continuously, using seven dredgers, to overcome the navigability crisis, BIWTA Executive Engineer (dredging) ASM Arefin said.
Earlier, ferries Comilla, Kakoli and Kishori were stuck at the mouth of the alternative channel at 4:00am yesterday and the import river-route had become unusable. The ferries were then asked to return to Shimulia ferry terminal.
Later at around 11:30am, ferry Comilla started operation again carrying smaller vehicles from Shimulia terminal. After successfully crossing the natural channel, the other ferries started using the route but with lesser loads and smaller vehicles.
Since 5:30pm on Saturday, the ferry service on Louhajang channel had been facing poor navigability. After being halted for almost five hours, the service resumed at 10:00pm on the same day, but at a smaller scale.
Since then, movement of all heavy vehicles, including buses and trucks, remained suspended on the channel. The passengers of the route have been facing difficulties as ferry movement remained closed.
BIWTA Additional General Manager (AGM) Khandker Shah Khaled Newaz said the ferry drivers were facing hurdles time and again due to the low water level. Even after dredging with seven dredgers, the depth of water in the alternative channel is four to five feet, whereas the depth needs to be at least seven and half feet for ferries to operate.
He said the navigability crisis has been created as silt was deposited in the channel, which was being used since June 12.
Trucks carrying goods and other heavy vehicles were asked to use the Daulatdia-Paturia ferry terminals. Owing to publicity for the last two days, fewer vehicles have been coming to the Shimulia-Kathalbari terminals, he claimed.
On this route, an average of at least 3,000 vehicles is carried across the river every day. But now, more than 500 heavy vehicles are waiting to be ferried.
Khaled Newaz said two more days have been taken to make the channel fit for ferry movement.
BIWTA Deputy Director Azgar Ali said dredgers were removing silt from the channel but the work was being hampered due to strong currents.