10 routes already closed
Mahfuz Emran: Old Dhaka’s Sadarghat is no longer what it used to be. But the area around Sadarghat was busy with the shouting of porters and the pushing of launch passengers. It doesn’t matter when the festival comes. A year after the launch of the Padma Bridge, the launch ghat has lost its charm.
On June 25, 2022, the Padma Bridge, the dream of the people of the southern region, was inaugurated. The traffic scenario of 41 routes from Sadarghat to the southern region changed overnight.
As a result of the Padma Bridge, the travel of the people of the south has become easy, along with saving time, business and trade has expanded. But the foreheads of the launch owners and workers have fallen.
As a rule, the launch siren does not sound at the ghat. Passenger traffic has halved. A total of 12 luxury launches in southern region have been closed. Those that are there are not in good condition.
The Launch Owners Association decided to run two launches per day in rotation on the Dhaka-Barisal route from July 17 this year. The passenger does not respond to this either.
Feroze, the cabin boy of Sundarban launch, said that it takes 3 and a half hours to go by bus through Padma Bridge. As a result, people are now traveling more by bus. Those who have more luggage are going to the launch instead of the bus, sick people are also going to the cabin.
Launches not getting passengers
Two launches leave Sadarghat daily in rotation. After that, it stayed at the ghat for three days and moved again on the fourth day. The launch owners are not getting profit by doing this.
Launch owners say that by rotation many of our launches are closed and kept in only one or two ghats. They also do not have passengers. Passengers increase a bit during festivals especially during holidays.
12 luxury launches closed
Sundarban Navigation had 8 launches plying the river before, but now only four are plying. The rest are lying near the Postgola Bridge. Similarly, 12 launches including three launches of Barisal bound Parabat, one of Manami, one of Adventure, one of Surabhi, two launches of Shatabdi have been closed.
10 routes stopped
According to the sources of the launch owners, since the last Eid-ul-Azha, there were no passengers on various sea routes in the southern region, instead of three instead of two, they stopped the movement of launches on 10 sea routes. Dhaka-Barguna, Dhaka-Madaripur, Dhaka-Tushkhali, Dhaka-Poysarhat, Dhaka-Amtali, Dhaka-Patarhat, Dhaka-Torkey, Dhaka-Rangabali, Dhaka-Ghosherhat and Dhaka-Patabunia routes are now closed.
The launch owners are complaining that since the launch of the Padma Bridge, our launches have been running with less than half of the passengers for the past one year. Not only the Padma Bridge, but also the increase in oil prices, the traffic jam from Gulistan to Sadarghat are responsible for this situation.
Mamun Or Rashid, the convenor of river ports and director of Bangladesh Domestic Passenger Transport Agency, told Daily Industry that 90 percent of the cost of a launch is due to oil. After that, the labor and repair of the launch also cost a lot. A big launch costs Tk 5-7 lakh per trip just for fuel. A launch requires 20 to 35 barrels of oil depending on the size of the launch. Sometimes we don’t even get this oil money. Many of our launches have been closed due to lack of passengers, some have cut and sold them.
He also said that not only Padma Bridge, people do not want to come to Sadarghat through so much traffic. Because there are different roads, it takes less time. If there is a flyover here, the number of passengers will increase slightly. We have already applied to the Ministry of Transport many times in this regard. This business will be closed unless a different plan is taken.
As a result of the rotation, two launches leave Sadarghat for Barisal every day. However, if the passenger pressure is high during the holidays, it is alleged that the two launches charge extra fare to take seats in the cabin. Habib Mridha, a passenger going to Barisal said that he travels by regular launch. Now there are two launches. There were many before. Deck fares are the same as before. But if there is a government shutdown for two to three days, the cabin rent increases from Tk 200 to Tk 300. May also increase during Puja holidays.
However, another passenger, Kabir Mahmud, who expressed relief at the launch journey, said that if you go by bus, you can go faster now. But we got used to the launch. Since childhood, he has been traveling to and from Dhaka in the launch. If there is no rush, I prefer to go to the launch. Eating, drinking and sleeping, the atmosphere of the launch is good.
Badruzzaman Badal, Senior Vice President of Launch Owners Association told, “We are living by eating air.” Passengers are not available at all. I have sold all my own launches. I had launches called Darashiko 1, 2, 3. Given to the contractor, they will sell iron by kg. The launch business has completely collapsed. I don’t know how long this will last.
He also said that there was a meeting with the previous minister every month. Now there is no opportunity to talk with this minister. They don’t want to talk. Who do we tell our problems to?
Transport inspectors of Maritime Safety Traffic Department said, we are always at the wharf. Those traveling with families are still going to the launch. But single travelers are turning their backs. The jobbers don’t finish office at 5 o’clock and cross Gulistan’s traffic jam to sit for the launch at 9 o’clock. They reached Barisal by 9:30.
In this regard, Deputy Director of BIWTA Maritime Safety and Traffic Management Department Monirul Islam said that earlier launches were running on 41 routes. The number of launches has decreased on almost all routes. Launching is being done in rotation. Launch operations on at least 10 routes are stopped. Out of these two to three routes are occasionally launched. However, on Eid or other religious festivals, launches run on all routes. As of now, the number of launches on two routes, Dhaka to Chandpur and Dhaka to Elisha, is high. Where earlier 90 to 95 launches were running on all routes. After the launch of Padma Setu, it now stands at 60 to 62.
BIWTA (Ports) Joint Director Alamgir Kabir told that it is normal that the number of passengers will decrease if the Padma Bridge is constructed. The government has nothing to do here. It will be like this. When the Padma bridge happened, the launch owners needed to plan differently. Many projects have been done during this government, why they could not get permission for a flyover, it is their failure.
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