Govt suspends plying vessels through Shela river, BIWTA opens Mongla-Ghasiakhali channel

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Dhaka, Mar 21: The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) on Monday suspended movements of all types of water vessels through the Shela river in Sundarbans to keep it and its bio-diversity unhurt.

“The government has decided to stop plying of all water vessels in Shela river through Sundarbans from Sharankhola (Bogi) to Joimonirgoal (Chadpai) following the capsize of a coal-laden cargo vessel in the river at Harintana of the Sundarbans under Mongla upazila,” BIWTA Chairman Commodore M Mozammel Haque told reporters on Monday.

“The 12-feet draft vessel owners to use the one-way route of the Mongla-Ghashiakhali channel during the full tide in daytime. They can also ply their vessels from both sides in every alternative day,” the BIWTA Chairman said.

The Shipping Ministry in an order has asked all the vessel owners to use Mongla-Ghashiakhali channel instead of the Shela River until further notice, he added.

He further said the vessel owners to use the one way Mongla-Ghashiakhali channel from Mongla end from today (Monday), while from Ghashiakhali end on Tuesday.

“Side-towing is totally prohibited due to narrow of the channel’s width. A total of 10 dredgers are now working to maintain the channel. Besides, floating pipes and dredging materials are also in the channel. Considering the dredging activities—we are not allowing to plying vessels both sides at a time,” the BIWTA chairman said in reply to a query.

The Mongla-Ghashiakhali dredging project has almost completed, Saidur Rahman, superintendent engineer of BIWTA said, adding, “the channel now contains 8-feet water during ebb time, while 16-17 feet during full tide.”

The width of the channel has increased to 70-100 metre (200-300 feet) through dredging, he added.

Earlier on December 9, 2014, an oil tanker sank in the Shela River spilling huge quantity of oil that tainted the water with a black hue for days. The oil was found on barks of trees and on the soil for months.

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