WITH Eid holidays just a week away, the water transport sector is getting ready for the peak season of business. The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation, as New Age reported on Sunday, presented a grim traffic situation for people travelling to the south. Inland Water Transport Authority officials are worried that the pressure of passengers and vehicles will peak two days before Eid because of shorter holiday and the queue of vehicles might tail back 10 kilometres from Paturia Ghat to Tepra. There are seven roll on-roll off ferries, six utilities and four K-type ferries in operation on the Paturia-Daulatdia route. It usually takes 35–40 minutes to cross Paturia-Daulatdia by ferry, but there are only 17 ferries for 4,500 vehicles each day. However, during Eid, the flow of vehicles on the route doubles. Two more ferries will, be added to tackle the Eid-time pressure. However, according to the BIWTC’s own assessment, the steps taken to ensure safe and smooth journey are inadequate as they suggested one more RO-RO ferry would help to better manage the pressure.
Every year, thousands of people, especially the working class, leave Dhaka to celebrate the festival with their families in their home town. The pressure of vehicle on the road or travellers crowding river transports is, therefore, not unexpected. It is disconcerting that the authorities are absolving themselves of their responsibilities by expressing concern a few days before Eid. There has been no mention of the safety measures taken to prevent accidents in the waterways. Passengers’ welfare organisations have warned the government about the continued operation of faulty, unfit and unregistered vessels, risking the lives of thousands of people travelling through the waterways during this period. They alleged that scores of faulty and unfit vessels are refurbished to attract homebound passengers. At least 14 people, including seven women and a child, died when a launch sank in the River Sandhya in Barisal before Eid-ul-Adha in 2016. The Inland Water Transport Authority, therefore, needs to step up its game and ensure effective monitoring mechanism to prevent the overcrowding of launches and check against the plying of illegal, unfit vessels.
It became evident again that the governmental attention on road, water and railway sectors is unequal. The road transport, highway and bridges ministry is reported to be preparing, however inadequately, to prevent traffic congestion on highways during Eid. Similar initiatives are not in place for scores of passengers who will be travelling through waterways. Therefore, it is important for the ministry concerned to arrange additional ferries for the Paturia-Daulatdia route, but it must deploy adequate human resources to prevent the overcrowding and plying of the unfit vessels on waterways. In the long run, the government must have an integrated transport plan that will equally invest in the development of road, railway and water transport.
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