Capital dredging project: First phase set to miss deadline
The first phase of the 'Capital Dredging on 53 Important Inland Waterways’ project is unlikely to end by the deadline with officials blaming a resistance from locals, disputes over demarcation, leasing out of sand fields as well as inadequate space for dumping dredged materials for the delay.
Sources at the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) said the first phase of the project, being implemented for 24 important inland rivers at a cost of Tk 1923 crore, began in July 2012 and it is scheduled to end by 2021, the UNB reported.
But, it might need another year to complete the work as 70 percent work has so far been completed, BIWTA officials said.
They, however, said the project cost might be reduced instead of any rise even though the time is extended.
The main object of the project is to develop the navigability of dead and dying inland waterways of 53 rivers to keep those navigable round the year for smooth and safe plying of cargo and passenger vessels.
Under the first phase of the project, capital dredging is carried out on 2,386 kms of waterways under 24 river routes while the 2nd phase covering the remaining important river routes will start on completion of the first one, said BIWTA officials.
Many rivers have been facing the navigability problem. Many of those have lost their capacity of containing water because of heavy siltation and construction of illegal structures on riverbeds.
Asked about the delay in the work, Saidur Rahman, additional chief engineer (dredging) of BIWTA, said they are facing various problems in implementing the project. “Reluctance of the local administration to extend cooperation, disputes over demarcation, leasing out of sand fields and shortage of space for dumping dredged materials are the main reasons behind the delay,” he said.
Facing all the obstacles, around 1,180 kms of waterways have already been restored spending Tk 1,057 crore in the last seven and half years, he added.
“We’ve already completed 70 per cent work on the 1st phase project. The project might need to be extended by one more year but it won’t increase the cost. Rather, the project might be implemented with a reduced cost,” said Saidur.
The rivers under the 1st phase of the project are Mongla Ghashiakhali Channel (MG Channel), Khogdon, Laukathi, Bhola Nala, Kirtankhola, Titas, Surma, Baulai, Natun Nadi, Rakti, Raksha Nala, Mogra, Kangsha, Bhogai-Kangsha, Buri, Ichamati, Karnatali, Palrodi, Dhaleswari, Kaliganga, Madhumati, Bhairab, Atrai, Dudhkumar, Old Brahmaputra and Arial Kha.
Replying to a query, the BIWTA official said 570.44 lakh cubic metres of silt have already been removed under the first phase project. Of them, 474.74 lakh cubic metres were removed by private dredgers while 70.70 lakh cubic metres by BIWTA’s own dredgers and 25 lakh cubic metres with the help of excavators.
A total of 1,175 kms of waterways have already been made navigable under the project, he said.
Though the MG Channel had become totally inoperative in 2011, it was opened for operation in 2015 on completion of dredging, the BIWTA additional chief engineer said, adding that vessels of 8–14 feet draft are frequently operating in the channel.
Sources at the BIWTA said about 220 colleges, schools and madrasas, dwelling units for the poor and a stadium have been built in Sunamganj, Cumilla, Netrakona and Mymensingh districts with the dredged materials.
The stadium was built on 12 acres of government land by filling the land with dredged materials in Phulpur upazila in Mymensingh district.
Over 2,000 families have benefited from the project as they got the height of their houses increased. “This will protect the dwellings from flood water,” Saidur said, adding that the production of crops, ducks and fish as well as trading on waterways will get a boost on completion of the dredging work.