Passenger number has dropped significantly (34%) in the last year owing to reasons including improved road communications, inauguration of Padma Bridge, and a navigability crisis due to lack of river excavation.
Around 50,000 people used to travel to various coastal districts, including Barishal, by launch from Dhaka every day before the Padma Bridge was opened. Within a year, this number decreased by 17,000 to 33,000, revealed a report of the Shipping and Communication Reporters Forum.
The organisation on Thursday highlighted the summary of the report in a press release.
Apart from this, at least 80 launches used to leave Dhaka daily for various destinations. This number has been reduced by 20 to 60.
Launch movement has decreased by 25% in one year, according to the report.
The press release said that the report has been prepared by surveying and monitoring from July last year to June this year.
During the survey, along with shipping experts, vessel owners and labour leaders, launch staff, passengers and officials of government agencies concerned were included.
According to the SCRF report, owners have scrapped at least 20 launches in a year due to the downturn in the inland shipping business. Apart from this, they have decided to scrap at least six more launches.
The report said after the launch of the Padma Bridge, the road communication between Dhaka and the southwestern region has become modern and comfortable. People are able to travel and transport goods in short time by road.
Due to this, there has been a negative impact on the inland water transport system between Dhaka and greater Barishal and the number of launch passengers has decreased.
It said that many waterways have been abandoned due to navigability crisis due to the failure of the authorities concerned to properly excavate rivers and remove silt.
Besides, the number of launch passengers is decreasing due to the reluctance of people to go to the Dhaka port's Sadarghat terminal due to traffic congestion, the report says.
According to SCRF, 70% of the 50,000 people who went to various destinations by waterway from Dhaka were the passengers of the launch going to Barishal, Patuakhali, Bhola, Barguna, Pirojpur and Jhalkathi.
Although the launch owners claim that their business is in dire straits due to a 60% drop in passengers. However, they could not provide acceptable information for this claim, the report said.
Rather, according to official data, the launch business is still profitable. However, the report mentions that the profit rate has decreased compared to earlier.
The owners claim that only 5,000-6,000 passengers leave Dhaka in 30-35 launches every day. On the other hand, according to the official data, at least 60 launches leave Dhaka every day, according to the report.
Citing BIWTA's Ports and Transport Department, SCRF said that on 19 August this year, a total of 62 passenger launches left Dhaka river port from Sadarghat terminal and neighbouring ghats for various destinations.
There were 22 launches in Chandpur region, 10 in Barishal region, 14 in Bhola region, 6 in Patuakhali region and 10 in other regions, the report said.