Shoals on around 33 kilometres of waterways are posing threats to water vessels operating on Patuakhali-Dhaka and Barguna-Dhaka routes.
Passenger and cargo vessels are often running aground on the shoals hidden under shallow water during low tide. As those have to wait till high tide to be rescued, passengers are suffering immensely, while all other stakeholders including businesses relying on the cargo are counting heavy losses.
Water transport is the primary means of communications for residents of Patuakhali and Barguna -- two coastal districts -- with the capital city and elsewhere in the country. At least 20 double decker passenger launches ply the Patuakhali-Dhaka and Barguna-Dhaka routes.
A large number of vessels also carry a huge amount of cargo to and from these two districts to the rest of the country, especially to Khulna and Chattogram -- two of the major seaports.
The navigability on the two routes is also crucial for transport of cargo to and from Patiuakhali's Payra sea port that started operations recently.
In order to ensure safety for all, the authorities have to dredge the rivers on these routes on an urgent basis, said passengers and businessmen.
On the Dhaka-Galachipa (via Patuakhali) route, at least 7 km of waterways need to be dredged at different points. Those are Patuakhali river terminal, Lohalia Khyaghat, Nurainpur, Sehakathi, Jainkathi, Karkhana, Sonakanda, Kobai, and Boga launch dock.
On the Barguna-Dhaka route, around 26 km of waterways near Amtali ferry dock, Payrakunjo ferry dock, Vikhakhali, Lebukhali, Raypura, Durgapasha, Pathkathi Kakchira, Mirzagonj, Dalachara, Titkata, Burirchar, Jangalia, Locha and Charpara need to be dredged urgently, said Mujibur Rahman, master of double decker launch Sundarban-6.
Bahadur Hawlader, master of a double decker launch on the Dhaka-Galachipa (via Patuakhali) route, said, lack of navigability is a regular phenomenon on the route during the dry season every year, usually between December and April.
During this time, even larger vessels need to use bamboo poles to asses the depth of water and to evade any accident on hidden shoals. In the case a launch gets stuck on a shoal, they sometimes have to wait for hours for the high tide, he added.
Milon Mia, master of another double decker launch on the Dhaka-Patuakhali route, said in a petition submitted to the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), they earmarked the areas in a seven-km-long stretch of the route that need urgent dredging.
Contacted, Khwaja Sadiqur Rahman, BITWA assistant director and also an official at Patuakhali river terminal, said they sent a letter to the BIWTA high-ups, urging to take steps for improving navigability by conducting necessary dredging at the rivers in the area.
He hoped that the situation will improve soon as dredging has already started in the Patuakhali launch terminal area.
Meanwhile, Barguna river terminal official Mamun-Or-Rashid said the higher authorities were informed of the poor navigability situation.