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Plying of goods and passenger boats on river routes along the western bank of Jamuna River in Gaibandha Sadar and Fulchhari upazilas is hampered due to drastic fall in water level and development of shoals in riverbed.
At least 20 big and small river port terminals (locally called ghats) including Balashi railway ferry ghat situated along the western bank of Jamuna River are facing difficulty in transshipment of goods and carrying passengers to different destinations of Kurigram, Jamalpur and Sirajganj districts, as river routes in many points have silted up.
Ferryboats are to cover much longer distances to avoid grounding.
"Plying of boats now needs longer time and additional fuel cost. Only 30 years ago, the Jamuna River remained navigable round the year and large cargo vessels from Indian territories sailed to Dhaka and Narayanganj river ports," said Ramijuddin, an elderly boatman of Syedpur ghat in Fulchhari upazila.
After the opening of Jamuna bridge several years ago, railway ferry services between Balashi and Bahaduabad ghats closed down permanently and since then country boats became the chief mode of communication on the route.
Railway marine department however continued wagon ferry service on the route but it is provided for only five months during the rainy season, said the Railway Marine Superintendent at Balashi ghat.
Railway marine department this season suspended wagon ferry services on November 18, 2010 due to drying up of channels.
It needs six feet water for movement of vessels, but the water level at present has come down only two to three feet deep and many small and large shoals developed along ferry routes. Many of the tributaries almost dried up, making even plying of country boats hard.
This season Balashi ghat authority had to shift passengers' pontoon half kilometre eastward from the main terminal as country boats could not connect the main stream of the Jamuna due to drying up of the mouth points of the tributary. Passengers have to cross the tributary amid risk with the help of a makeshift bamboo bridge to reach the pontoon.
Last year local people set up a shallow engine operated manual dredger to make the dried up channel navigable for plying of country boats, but it was too expensive, said Hashu Mia, a lease holder of Sayedpur ghat.
People in char (newly emerged landmass) areas are to change boats frequently to reach the destinations, because this time riverbed almost silted up and water level fell alarmingly, said Akbar Ali, chairman Kanchipara union.
The tributary along the western bank at Kamarjani ghat dried up due to deposition of sand and so, jute laden country boats cannot move to the main stream, which is now one kilometre off the bank, said Solaiman Islam, chairman Kamajani union of Gaibandha Sadar upazila.