Posted on November 24, 2020
When Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (VISTA) started a dredging operation to remove silt from Barishal River Port around October 16, they expected it to be over by now. However, more than a month later, not even half of the works could be completed.
BIWTA officials said it’s the huge amount of polythene, plastic and other trash dumped into the water that is slowing down the project. As of yesterday, they have been recovering at least three maunds of junk every day.
“We set out to finish this as quickly as possible. The river needs to be dredged regularly for navigability’s sake, but we haven’t been able to dredg even half of our targeted 1.5 lakh cubic metres of silt,” BIWTA’s Assistant Engineer (Dredging) told this correspondent. “A lot of time and money is being wasted because of plastic pollution.”
After visiting the Barishal River Port and Kirtonkhola river area, it has been found that a huge amount of cloth, ropes, and plastic waste are coming up with the silt. After every 30-40 minute of operation, staffers take cloth, ropes, and plastic waste out of the dredging machines and keep them separately. This is done make disposal and recycling easier. Additionally, after every day, at least one submerged trawler is being collected from the river, the officials said.
The depth of the 40 km long Kirtankhola river is 100-150 feet in the middle side. During low tide, it stands at seven or feet around the port area, said sources within the department. However, launches get stuck on their way to the port if there isn’t at least 10-12 feet of depth. This means there’s no other way but to dredg the area of silt, and the polythene and plastic waste that comes with it.
Mostafizur Rahman, Joint Director of BIWTA and Barishal River Port Officer, said the operation will be carried out across 30 points on the Dhaka-Barishal route, including a few points at the port area. Dredging work is going on with two machines, he told this correspondent. “If everyone is not aware, the river port will start resembling the Buri Ganga river.”
Siddiqur Rahaman is a regular at the port. He collects revenues related to goods-transportation at the port. “I’ve seen launch passengers and staffers indiscriminately dump waste into the river. That’s at least 8-10 vehicles everyday.”
“Relevant authorities used to monitor the area and keep waste dumping under control, but after the early days of the pandemic, the monitoring has slackened,” he added.
“Although dumping garbage into the river is banned, some people are violating it and creating this problem,” said Saidur Rahman Rintu, Vice president of the Barisal Launch Owners Association. In the last two weeks, two launches got stuck near the port due to siltation, he informed.
This is a cause for alarm for citizens of Barishal, environmentalists, and government officials alike. Rafiqul Alam, Divisional Coordinator Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (Bapa), said the accumulating waste has become a threat to navigability of the river port area, and the situation will only get worse if steps aren’t taken immediately.
Md Kamruzzaman Sarkar, acting director of the Environment Department, Barishal Divisional Office, said, “The problem is not just a local problem, it has spread to every region. If everyone were more aware and responsible, all of this could’ve been avoided.”