Ferry service on Shimulia-Kathalbari route shut, pressure mounts on Daulatdia-Paturia route

Ferry services on the Kanthalbari-Shimulia water route in the river Padma have turned uncertain for the lack of navigability, stranding hundreds of vehicles on sides of the river and causing untold sufferings to passengers.  

Meanwhile, pressure on the Daulatdia-Paturia route has mounted as vehicles are being diverted to this route from Kanthalbari-Shimulia route. 

As a result, thousands of transports had to remain stranded on both the sides of the river Padma in Madaripur and Munsiganj as well as Manikganj and Rajbari causing untold sufferings to thousands of people and transport workers.   

Although several dredgers have been engaged to solve the problem by removing poppies or silts in two channels on the Kathalbari-Shimulia route, but none could say when this route would be able to resume ferry movement.

However, the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) has found out a new route for ferry services through Palerchar from Madaripur to Munsiganj. But the length of this route is at least 25 kilometres, which will take more than seven hours to cross the river by a ferry. And that is why, it is not possible to run ferry services through this way.

Abdul Alim, BIWTC Manager at KanthalbariGhat, said ferry services would not be possible to resume until the channel's navigability is fully restored.

Sources said the authorities suspended ferry service after a vessel got stuck in a shoal on last Thursday. However, launch and speedboat operations remain on.

BIWTA's dredging Authority at ShimuliaGhat said three dredgers are functioning to remove silts from the Padma Bridge channel to solve the naval crisis. However, it is uncertain when this channel will be active.

As many as 18 ferries regularly cruise the Shimulia-Kathalbari waterway, said Abdul Alim, Manager of BIWTC's Kathalbari terminal.

Besides, around 200 speedboats and 87 launches transport passengers, said Akhter Hossain, Traffic Inspector at BIWTA's Kathalbari jetty.

Earlier on Saturday, state minister for shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said that the ferry services on the Shimulia-Kathalbari channel would remain closed between 6:00pm and 6:00am until further notice due to strong current and to ensure safety of the under-construction Padma Multipurpose Bridge.

But, the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) officials closed the ferry services entirely due to navigability crisis.

The decision to suspend all ferry services was taken only to avoid accidents, officials said.

On the otherhand, pressure has mounted on the Paturia-Daulatdia channel as transports are being diverted to this route from Shimulia-Kathalbari route. Passengers and transport workers are facing same sufferings due to heavy pressure on this route. 

The situation turned severe after the ferry services on the Shimulia-Kathalbari route was suspended completely for an indefinite period since Thursday morning.

Several hundred passenger and goods-laden vehicles were seen stranded at different ferry terminals waiting to cross the river.

Witnesses said ferry services on the Daulatdia-Paturia route are also being hampered due to navigability crisis and dredging work being carried out by the BIWTA since August 28.

Following the works, the ferries have been coming from Daulatdia through an alternative channel while during the journey from Paturia, the ferries were using the old channel.

Zillur Rahman, deputy general manager of BIWTC at Aricha Regional Office, said that normally 2,500 to 3,000 vehicles daily cross the river through the Paturia-Daulatdia channel.

Currently, 19 ferries have been operational on the route and they are allowing passenger vehicles to go first, he added.