Govt must mend river transport safety flaws

Published: 00:00, Jul 01,2020


WATERWAY accidents are reported to have taken a heavy toll on human lives in the past few years. Only in 2019, a total of 203 waterway accidents killed 219 people, as the Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh says. Unskilled and rash driving, faulty river vessels and water transport affairs mismanagement have been raised as reasons for such accidents in the past, but to no avail. In the recent accident on Monday morning a launch capsized after another launch crashed into it in the River Buriganga near Farashganj in Dhaka, leaving at least 34 people dead, with the number of victims standing a chance to increase. The Morning Bird headed for Dhaka, which was trying to anchor at the Farashganj terminal, was hit hard by the Mayur-2 and sank within seconds. Among the 70–80 passengers, believed to be on board, only a few could save their lives while others drowned as the launch sank. A few passengers of the Morning Bird are still reportedly missing.

The state minister for shipping is reported to have observed that the accident looks like a murder while the Bangladesh Inland Water and Transport Authority and the shipping department, which have set up two committees to investigate the accident, are reported to be saying that human failure —  unskilled and reckless driving — might be what caused the accident. Reports have it that the Mayur-2 was driven by an apprentice, which is not unusual in Bangladesh where many accidents, even on the road, take place because of unskilled and rash driving by unprofessional and apprentice drivers. This indicates negligence on part of the authorities concerned. The government’s failure to attend to the causes behind the rising number of accidents, which claim a few thousand lives every year both on the road and waterways, and to put in place an adequate monitoring mechanism, as experts say, have contributed to chaotic river and road transport sectors. Another factor that has contributed largely to the undisciplined river and road transport sector is the failure of the government to bring wrong-doers — unskilled drivers, owners of unfit vehicles or government and other officials who fail to discharge their duties properly — to justice.

The government must, therefore, investigate the accident at hand immediately and properly and bring the people responsible for the accident to justice while families of the deceased and the victims must be adequately compensated. The government must also attend to the already identifiable issues that contribute to a large number of waterway accidents every year. Millions of people mostly in the south-west are dependent on river transports and are vulnerable to waterway accidents. Effective initiatives and strict measures are, therefore, highly needed to ensure passenger safety.

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