Although there are 41 recognized river routes between Dhaka and the south coast, at present there are commercial launches operating from Sadarghat terminal of Dhaka river port on just 25 routes.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) sources said that launches are not plying the remaining river channels due to the shortage of passengers.
However, launch owners say that 15 waterways have apparently been abandoned due to poor navigabil-ity. They said, this crisis has been created due to lack of sufficient dredging.
They claim that even on the 25 waterways that are operational, launches ply on just 19 of those. Launch movement on the remaining 6 routes is irregular.
Rights activists complain that there is no transparency and accountability in excavation and dredging works. Due to this, there are irregularities and corruption in this important work.
Launch owners also have the same complaint that waterways are not being dredged properly due to lack of transparency and accountability.
Badiuzzaman Badal, Senior Vice President of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport (Passenger carrier) Association, an organization of launch owners, said, “We are a major stakeholder in the shipping sector. But we are not involved in river dredging. Our opinion is not taken on which route has more or less nav-igability crisis.”
Referring to the lack of minimum transparency and accountability in dredging, Badiuzzaman Badal said, “BIWTA is doing the job as per their wish leading to widespread irregularities and corruption. As a result, general people, including water transport owners, are not getting the benefits. As the launch can-not proceed in many waterways due to the navigability crisis, in order to reach many destinations, one has to travel much more than the prescribed distance, wasting extra time. On the one hand, the fuel cost of the owners increases, on the other hand, the passengers do not want to board the launch because of the extra time wasted.”
Badiuzzaman Badal said these in a press conference at the organisation’s office at Sadarghat Terminal on April 8.
Aminur Rasul Babul, member secretary of Safe Waterway Implementation Movement, said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina herself is sincere in the development of inland shipping communication. The government is also giving adequate allocation in this sector. But due to the irregularities and corruption of BIWTA’s dredging department, the desired success in rescuing the defunct waterways has not come even after 14 years.
Mihir Biswas, joint secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), said that BIWTA’s responsibility is to maintain the navigability of waterways through regular dredging under its revenue fund.
“The river dredging, including rescue of lost waterways and the expensive works of silt removal, are under its development fund. The organisation has been doing these two tasks for more than a century. For this, thousands of crores of public funds have been spent, but the expected success is not visible,” Mihir Biswas commented, also blaming irregularities, corruption and lack of accountability and trans-parency as responsible for this.