Posted on November 4, 2020
Md Joynal Abedin Khan: The visual progress of dredging of the major rivers and tributaries to ensure navigation for waterways is still far cry throughout the country.
It’s a matter of concerned that neither the quality and nor the quantity of riverways increased after taking massive plans for better river-route as per electoral manifesto of the incumbent government, experts and the shipping ministry sources said.
On October 29, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts (PSCPA) has pointed the figure on Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) for lacking of proper utilization of huge amount of money allocated for dredging and maintenance work for navigation on waterways.
The committee has also expressed a deep concern on the state-owned monitoring body (BIWTA) for allegedly misuse of gigantic budget for ensuring suitable river routes and also asked it to submit an update report within a month to explain the causes of not to view the progress of dredging works. Earlier, a discussion at the National Parliament stated that navigability in nearly 7,500 km of waterways has been lost over the last four decades.
According to a survey of BIWTA, at present, the total length of waterways has decreased to 6,000 km during the rainy season and 3,800 km during the dry season.
For an example, report published on October 18 last year, Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED), a government division under the Ministry of Planning, finds misuse of fund in five projects worth about Tk 5,000 crore, suspects irregularities in 97 such ongoing projects worth Tk 47,000 crore.
Dredging usually refers to increasing the depth of the river channel by removing silt that builds up on the bottom over time. But, what if the silt collected from the river falls back into the same water body, resulting in the squandering of public funds. This was the scenario of a six-year-long project undertaken for dredging the Jamuna River.
In a recently released report, the Planning Ministry found proof of irregularities after analysing five different river dredging projects – both completed and ongoing – worth about Tk 5,000 crore.
The Planning Commission has raised objections to high costs involved in a number of components of a massive river dredging project, undertaken by the BIWTA. Besides, the state-run BIWTA has proposed Tk 70 million for engineering and hydrographic studies for implementing
the project in question.
The massive Tk 47.86 billion project has been undertaken recently to restore the normal flow of four rivers — the Jhinai, the Ghaghat, the Bangshi and the Nagda — and improve their navigability.
State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said on February 10, “The government has taken measures to ensure navigability in 10,000 kilometres of river routes through dredging of 178 rivers.”
As per the plan, the state minister said the BIWTA had begun excavation of 12 important river routes, capital dredging in 53 river routes, navigability development of the river route from Mongla port to Pakshi via Chandpur, Mawa, Goalando and restoration of old Brahmaputra, Darla, Tulai and Punarvava rivers.
Noted water expert Professor Dr Ainun Nishat said that after dredging, the river jumps back to its original state temporarily. But the siltation process is continuous and the river gets filled up again.”
AKM Saiful Islam, professor of the Institute of Water and Flood Management at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), said that silt deposited on the riverbeds move out to the sea during monsoon.
Professor Saiful opined that the authorities should conduct surveys every year, especially at the source of rivers and other risky areas, to protect river banks.
Additionally, dredging about 2,500 km of the river by spending around Tk 2,000 crore did not bring any positive outcome. The rivers returned to their earlier stage the very next year, hampering water transportation, he continued.
A S M Feroz, MP, President of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts, said BIWTA authorities should lease the lands from people or government for piling silts far from the riverbeds.
He gave an ultimatum for conducting drive to arrest some BIWTA officials by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for irregularities in dredging and maintenance works.
He also raise the voice against the misuse of huge government fund and asked the BIWTA to show cause the reasons of halting some ferry ghats, including Aricha, Goalanda and Mawa routes .
Contacted, Md Abdul Matin, Chief Engineer, Dredging of BIWTA, told the Daily Industry yesterday, “We are doing our dredging works accordingly, but the Padma Bridge project hampered our activities.”
The yearly maintain budget for Tk 60-70 crore for dredging works is not enough to conduct the activities across the country, he said.
The development budgets for every project will ensure to fulfill the target to run the waterways boosting the economy, he added.
In a query, he said, “The recent rough current of river damaged our several ghats and alternative water channels that originated from Padma Bridge construction works.”
He replied another query about misuse of the government fund, “No chance of misusing the project fund due to strong monitoring by respective bodies of the government.”