Posted on January 8, 2024
The government has restored navigability in 7,862 kilometres routes of country’s 53 inland rivers through dredging or capital dredging in the last 14 years.
In the dry season, the length of waterway has increased to 6,192km, which was only 2,500km in 2009-10.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina had set a target of dredging 10,000 kilometres of waterways in the country by 2025.
About 79 per cent of river dredging work of the target has already been completed, according to Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority.
The shipping ministry has been implementing the dredging work through the BIWTA for the smooth and safe movement of goods and passenger vessels in the inland waterways.
Engineer Rakibul Islam Talukder, chief engineer (dredging) of BIWTA said that under a master plan of dredging, the work of digging and retrieving 178 rivers designated for BIWTA started to make about 10,500 kilometres navigable in 2012.
By 2025, the capital dredging work will be completed to restore the navigability of 10,000km of river routes through various projects, he said.
Talukder said dredging work started from July 2012 under the project titled ‘Capital dredging of 53 river-routes in inland waterways (1st phase – 24 river routes) (2nd revised)’ while the dredging work was completed by June, 2022 as about Tk 1,700 crore have been spent on this project.
Under this project, the closed MG Channel has been dredged and restored for navigability and opened for all types of shipping including cargo.
The navigability of Khagdan, Laukathi, Bhola Nala, Kirtankhola, Ichhamati, Surma, Rakti, Baulau, Roksa Nila, Chachi, Kansa, Titas, Madhumati, Upper Kumar, Bhairav rivers has came back. Vessels with cargo are now plying these rivers throughout the year.
State minister for shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said that under the project, a target was set to improve the navigability of 2,386 km of waterways by digging a total of 997 lakh cubic meters in 24 waterways and the work has already been completed.
Shipping secretary Mustafa Kamal said that capital dredging in 53 routes of inland waterways (1st stage – 24 waterways) under the 2nd amendment project, the MG channel, which was closed in 2011, was opened for navigation in 2015 by dredging and so far 2,00,169 vessels have moved through this channel.
At present the channel has a minimum water depth of 12 feet and during high tide up to 20 feet, and a width of 200 to 300 feet, he said.
The secretary also said that cargo could not move through Khagdan, Laukathi, Bhola Nala, Kirtankhola, Ichamati, Karntali due to the navigability crisis.
Under the project, upon restoration of navigability, the river routes remain okay for plying of vessels throughout the year.
Due to the navigability of the Bhairab-Chatak waterway, half-loads of cargo were plying during the dry season but now on an average 200 cargoes carrying stones, cements, sand, coals are operating on this route daily, he said.
As a result of dredging, an average 40 to 50 cargos carrying fertiliser, cement, sand, coal, rice and wheat are moving on the Khulna-Noapara waterway every day. But earlier, without the benefit of tides, cargo could not move by sea.
Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said that the ministry was working on a plan to restore the navigability of 10,000 kilometres of the river.
Out of this, through capital dredging of 53 routes of inland waterways (1st stage – 24 waterways) under the project titled ‘2nd Revised’, navigability of about 3,692 km of waterways has been restored through dredging.
The state minister said that cargo ships were running full-time after dredging under the 24 waterways project.
Gaglajor-Mohanganj of Kangsha River, Anwarpur-Taherpur of Baulau River, Saheber Hat Nala of Barishal-Patuakhali Waterway, Daudkandi-Homna-Ramakrishnapur of Titus River, Sunamganj-Dolura Waterway of Chalti River, Meghna Langalbandh Waterway of Narayanganj, Khadighat-Madan of Magra River were almost dead. But these routes have been opened after restoring navigability through dredging, Khalid said.
About 5,500 acres of non-agricultural land has been converted into agricultural land by filling the fallow or low land through dredging. In addition, about 600 low-lying places of educational institutions, playgrounds, Eidga grounds, children’s parks, stadiums, cemeteries, churches and temples have been filled up.
Chairman of BIWTA Commodore Arif Ahmed Mustafa said that the low places of 10 shelter centres built for the landless have been filled.
He also said that due to the dredging of the dead rivers, water flows in the rivers throughout the year. Agricultural production has increased due to the use of river water in irrigation.
As dredging increases the depth of the river, flood water recedes rapidly as flooding has been reduced by filling in low-lying areas.
In one word, dredging of 24 waterways has put a huge positive impact on the environment in the respective areas.
The length of inland waterways throughout the country is about 24 thousand kilometres during monsoon. In the dry season it comes down to 6 thousand km. The government has taken this reform initiative so that ships can always move without any interruption.