Navy offers to dredge channel

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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Author / Source: ANISUR RAHMAN KHAN
The Bangladesh Navy has offered to
dredge the Mongla-Ghasiakhali river channel, although the Bangladesh
Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) has already floated a tender
for the work. The BIWTA invited the tender in the first half of August,
and the bids would be received on September 22.

The BIWTA started dredging the
Mongla-Ghasiakhali river channel, a protocol river route between
Bangladesh and India, on June 2, after a gap of 40 years. Inaugurating
the dredging work, BIWTA chairman Samsuddoha Khondaker had said that
dredging the 22-km-long channel would require three months and cost
about Tk. 250 crore. BIWTA officials, however, now say they would
require three years to dredge the channel, using the agency’s own
resources.
“A meeting was held between BIWTA officials and the
Bangladesh Navy on August 7, about dredging the channel. The Navy
expressed its interest in dredging the channel,” Rakibul Islam Talukdar,
BIWTA superintendent engineer, said.
“A large volume of silt (100
lakh cubic metres) would have to be removed from the channel, to restore
its navigability. International tender has been invited to complete the
dredging work in as short a period as possible,” he added.
According
to him, at least two international bidders would be engaged to complete
the dredging by one year. “The dredging has to be completed in the
shortest possible time. Delay would cause it to silt up again. At
present, five BIWTA dredgers are deployed to dredge the channel,” he
informed.
BIWTA chief engineer (dredging), MA Motin, alleged that the
Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) has planned to construct
sluice gates alongside the channel, which will make it difficult to keep
the channel navigable.
“Shifting shrimp enclosures and opening up
the sluice gates of canals could help increase the flow of water in the
channel, during tidal periods. Otherwise, it would be difficult to keep
the channel navigable round the year,” Motin said.
River experts are, however, of the opinion the channel would not turn viable, even after dredging.
Maminul
Haque Sarkar, deputy executive director, Centre for Environmental and
Geographic Information Services (CEGIS), said a tidal basin might have
to be constructed, to restore the Mongla-Ghasiakhali river route.
“Shrimp
culture and poldering in the south-western region are the major reasons
for the moribund state of the river route. Navigation draft of the
Mongla-Ghasiakhali navigation route was reduced rapidly by the end of
1990s, due to reducing tidal volume. The route will not be operational
unless the tidal volume is increased,” he said.
Cargo owners now
operate their vessels through the Sundarbans, spending more time and
money to cover the longer distance. This is also affecting the
bio-diversity of the Sundarbans. The cargo owners could save about 110
miles, by using the Mongla-Ghasiakhali river route.
The
Mongla-Ghasiakhali river route has remained defunct for the past five
years, due to high siltation, which turned the river non-navigable. The
BIWTA constructed and opened the artificial 31-km route in November
1973, to maintain the link between Mongla Sea Port, Khulna and Noapara,
with other parts of the country.
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