Vol. 5 Num 961 Mon. February 12, 2007  

Boatmen dredging Jamuna as govt turns a blind eye

Local people are doing a great job when the government idled it away. They are making the silted Kalasona channel in mid-Jamuna navigable again by dredging it in their own way.

The Railway stopped using the channel for ferrying goods wagons and declared it abandoned in November 15 last year as it became unfit for navigation.

After a time, movement of country boats from Balashi Ghat to destinations including Bahadurabad Ghat, Arendabari, Jigabari, Mollar Char, Sharishabari and Narayanganj also came to a halt due to emergence of a large shoal at Kalasona turning point.

Two passenger trains--Teesta Inter-City Express and North Bengal Mail--are still shuttling between Dinajpur and Balashi Ghat and between Dhaka and Bahadurabad Ghat respectively despite suspension of passenger ferry service between Bahadurabad Ghat and Balashi Ghat since July 14 last year.

After suspension of ferry service, train passengers at Bahadurabad and Balashi and local people used to avail country boats. But the channel became unusable even by country boats as water level fell and silt deposit increased.

Finding no alternative, local people led by boatmen and lesssees of different ghats joined hands and decided to remove the silt from Kalasona. They evolved a unique way to do the job.

They installed two shallow pumps with tubewells on makeshift rafts made by joining empty drums and started extracting the silt and sand from the channel. The silt extracted by the pumps are taken to other areas though boats.

"We are working for about four weeks and the silted channel has become somehow fit for plying country boats. We have done it voluntarily", said Asaduzzaman Hasu, a lessee of Balashi Ghat and one of the initiators.

"We collected money from owners of country boats to meet the fuel cost for operating pumps", Hasu told this correspondent during a visit to the area yesterday.

Even fertiliser dealers in Gaibandha can carry their consignments from Jamalpur Jamuna Fertiliser Factory in country boats instead of traveling a long route via Jamuna Bridge, he added.

Prior to closure of railway ferry service, its marine department proposed to higher authorities to dredge the Kalasona silted channel. Instead of dredging, the authorities closed the ferry service.

Boatmen have innovated a technique to dredge the Kalasons channel in Jamuna. They are pumping out sand by irrigation pumps mounted on makeshift raft made by joining empty drums. PHOTO: STAR