Ferry services between Tagra and Charkhali terminals in Pirojpur on Barishal-Bhandaria-Pirojpur highway are taking a heavy toll as the perennial problem of hidden shoals in the Kacha river has worsened this dry season.
For almost five years, shoals in the Kacha -- nearly two kilometres wide between the two terminals -- have been affecting movement of vehicles that ply 13 different routes on the highway. Thousands of people, especially from Mathbaria, Bhandaria and Barguna, use the ferry services on the river every day.
The situation starts to get worse in January every year and it remains that way for nearly four more months when sufferings of passengers know no bounds, said people frequenting the highway.
Kabir Hossain, supervisor of a bus service on Mathbaria-Dhaka route, said, “Soon after boarding a ferry, everyone gets filled with apprehension about getting stuck on a shoal.”
“On a regular day, it usually takes a maximum of 15 minutes to cross the river. But if the ferry runs aground, we may need to wait several hours for high tide when it can resume operations,” he also said.
Besides, during dry season as well as during low tide, the river's water level recedes so sharply that the ramps of pontoons at both the ferry terminals become too steep for vehicles to get on and off ferries safely, said Masum Billah, who is a bus driver of Banaful Paribahan.
He also said after experiencing immense stress while getting on board, the next main concern of the ferry passengers sets on whether or not the ferry would run aground on the shoals.
A crew member of a ferry, Jasim Uddin, said, “We are unable to maintain schedule of ferry service due to the shoals mostly on the Tagra side of the Kacha river under Indurkani upazila.”
Shoals have been disrupting ferry services for around five years, but it has become severe this year, Jasim added.
After this correspondent reached Fakhrul Islam, sub-assistant engineer of Roads and Highways Department in Pirojpur, for his comments over the issue, he said the river has to be dredged for smooth movement of ferries and that the higher authorities were already informed of the situation.