Polythene and plastic materials continued causing difficulties in the capital dredging of the river Karnaphuli which began two years ago to restore the river’s depth for vessel movement through those points where navigability decreased drastically.
Concerned authority said that though more than two years passed only 28-30 per cent work of the project was completed so far.
On September 27, 2018, Chattogram Port Authority began the dredging work from Bakalia Char area. Under the project ‘Sadarghat-Bakalair Char Dredging’ the 2.5 kilometres long and 250 metres wide area from Sadarghat to Bakalia Char was to be deepened about 4 metres from the sea level by removing 43 lakh cubic metres of sludge.
The dredging was scheduled to be completed within a year at a cost of Tk 258.51 crore.
Bangladesh Navy was engaged to do the maintenance work relating to the dredging work for the next three years.
After completion, the area would look like Hatirjheel in Dhaka, official said.
Fish landing Station would be set up to berth fishing trawlers. After completing the dredging across 400-metre long area, the lighter jetty would be functional and 4 ships would berth in the jetty.
Two years after the project’s inception, CPA chief hydrographer Commander Mohammad Arifur Rahman on Sunday said that the entire project was ruined just due to layers of polythene on the riverbed.
‘The way polythene and plastic have been found is unexpected. They have never been able to lift more than 200 cubic feet of sediment per hour. In fact, the machine has repeatedly failed due to excessive polythene,’ Arifur explained.
He further said, ‘In the Tk 258 crore project, 43 lakh cubic metres of silt was supposed to be extracted from Karnafuli, but only 12 lakh cubic metres has been extracted. Of which, 5 lakh cubic meters is polythene and plastic.’
The hydrographer said that a BUET survey report said that the river had polythene stratum up to 4 metres, but the layer of polythene had accumulated up to 7 metres from the riverbed which is 9-11 metres deep.
Polythene stratum has created a big obstacle in the excavation work.
At first the excavation was started with three dredgers of 20 to 26 inches diameter, but later dredgers of 32 inches diameter were used. Suction cutters were brought in from China. ‘Even after that, the desired success did not come and authorities then had to apply an old method, which is dredging with a local grab dredger,’ Arifur added.
The dredging work was scheduled to be completed in September 2019. The deadline was later extended to June 2020. The CPA is now sending a proposal to the ministry to extend the project duration till June 2023, he added.
Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry director Syed Sagir Ahmed said that for the last few years the residents of low-lying areas of Chattogram and the trade bodies had been suffering a lot due to waterlogging and tidal surge. The delay in Karnaphuli dredging simply aggravated the problem. As the riverbed has filled up, ship can enter into the port only during high tide.
Syed Sagir said that it should be investigated why wrong assessments were made before dredging commenced.
He also added that 7 lakh cubic metres of polythene and plastic means that Karnafuli is on the verge of death.
Earlier, the CPA scrapped another project of Karnaphuli dredging midway.
In April 2011, the CPA awarded a project, titled ‘Capital Dredging and Bank Protection with Jetty Facilities in the Karnaphuli River from Sadarghat Jetty to 3rd Karnaphuli Bridge’ to the Malaysian Maritime and Dredging Corporation and asked the firm to complete the work within 20 months.
The MMDC started their work which in May 2011 and was supposed to end it by January 2013.The project work included dredging up 3.6 million cubic metres of silt from around two kilometres of riverbed stretching from Sadarghat Jetty to some 500 metres off the 3rd Karnaphuli Bridge as well as constructing a 2,615-metre marine driveway with bank protection and a 400-metre jetty.
MMDC, took Tk 166 crore of the Tk 229.54 crore project.
Port officials said that the MMDC dredged up around 2.23 million cubic metres of silt from the riverbed of Karnaphuli. The CPA extended the deadline several times after the 2013 deadline but the contractor failed to show satisfactory progress. After repeated warnings, the CPA scrapped the deal in 2014.
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