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District - December 5, 2022

Ferry not running despite expenditure of Tk 145 crore

Balashi-Bahadurabad River Route

Special Correspondent: A mega project was taken up for the navigability of ferry service on the Bahadurabad river route from Balashi in Gaibandhar to Jamalpur to facilitate connectivity to the eight northern districts. The terminal was constructed at Dughat at a cost of Tk 145 crore. But Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) said that the river route is unsuitable for ferry traffic. When the launch service is launched, that too has turned upside down.
It is known that in 1938 Tistamukh Ghat and Bahadurabad Ghat were opened. At Dughat, the capital’s rail connection with the northern region was open through ferry service. In 1990, the Tistamukh ghat was shifted to Balashi, upstream of the same upazila, on the pretext of the navigable crisis of the river. About Tk 30 crore were also spent there. A new railway track of about 6 km was constructed from Trimohini railway station to Balashighat. There too, after a few years of operation, the ferry services stopped due to the decline in navigability in the Jamuna.
After the Jamuna multi-purpose bridge was opened, the ferry service on this route was completely stopped from 2000. However, the people of this region used to cross at risk in shallow engine-driven boats. In order to reduce traffic pressure on Bangabandhu Bridge, the infrastructure was built in 2014 with the aim of opening ferries in Balashi and Bahadurabad, with the rationale of creating alternative routes.
In October 2017, ECNEC meeting approved the ferry terminal construction project to re-open the Balashi-Bahadurabad river route. The cost of the project is estimated at Tk 124.77 crore. After increasing the project cost in Dudfa, several structures were constructed by 2021 at a cost of Tk 145.27 crore.
The technical committee of BIWTA declared the waterway unnavigable, citing various problems including a sudden naval crisis and a long distance of 26 km of navigable waterway.
This year, four small launches have started to operate on this route experimentally for passenger crossing. Due to the naval crisis, the launch is not going on anymore. As a result, the people of this region are not getting the desired benefits from the mega projects of the government.
Balashighat terminal can be seen, bus terminal, toll collection booth, police barracks, fire service, modern design mosque, food hotel, Ansar barracks and many other aesthetic structures have been built. Only the food hotel is open but everything else is closed. The eye-catching infrastructure now lies uninhabited.
Hasibul Habib, a resident of Rangpur waiting for the boat at Balashighat told Daily Industry, “I work in Mymensingh. We used to cross this waterway safely by ferry. A few small launches were currently plying. But they are also closed now. Due to this, we have to cross the river at the risk of life in our boat.
Talked to local former UP member Abdur Sattar Mia. He told Daily Industry, “If the river ferry service was started from Balashighat, the unemployment rate in this area would have decreased. In this area, industries, factories and trade were expanding.
In this regard, Phulchari Upazila Parishad Chairman and Upazila Awami League President GM Salim Parvez told, “The route was once used by the people of eight districts of North Bengal. Thousands of people used to gather at Balashighat every day. In a short period of time, people used this route to go to Mymensingh, Kishoreganj, Jamalpur, Sherpur, Netrakona districts.
He also said, “In March of this year, a few small launches started to operate experimentally on this route. Launches are no longer able to move due to silt floating in the river. If this route is given special importance, then the people of both sides will be able to reach their destination quickly.
Mehdi Hasan, President of Gaibandha Launch Owners’ Association told, “Even though the launch service was launched initially in the current year, the launch is sometimes blocked due to the naval crisis. Now the passenger’s suffering has increased as the launch movement has been completely stopped. However, BIWTA’s four dredger machines are supposed to be engaged in river dredging at all times, but now one is working.
Meanwhile, BIWTA officials have been staying at the launch terminal at Balashighat in Gaibandhar for the past three weeks. They are conducting on-site survey to normalize Balasi-Bahadurabad launch movement. It is said that he has held several meetings with the district administration and the launch owner association on how to make the closed sea route operational. They also gave various suggestions.
When asked about these issues, BIWTA officials said on condition of anonymity, “None of us can comment on this except the higher authorities.”

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