The ferry service between Aricha in Manikganj and Kazirhat in Pabna is due to resume this month after 20 years, which is expected to lessen the sufferings of thousands of residents of both regions.
Abdus Sattar, assistant general manager of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) at Aricha office (Marine Division), said, "All the steps have been taken to restart the ferry service on the Aricha-Kazirhat route. The ferry service will be officially launched this month."
The authorities of the Aricha terminal recently ran a ferry on the route on a trial basis. Initially, four ferries are expected to operate on the route.
The number of ferries will be increased if the pressure of passengers and vehicles increases, according to the authorities of the terminal.
Mostafijur Rahman, a government employee of Tarash upazila in Sirajganj said, "The pressure on the Jamuna Bridge will be reduced if ferries start operating on the Aricha-Kazirhat route. Additionally, ordinary passengers will be relieved of traffic jams in the bridge area during festivals."
People of Pabna, Sirajganj, Kushtia and several nearby districts will benefit if the Aricha-Kazirhat route resumes operations, he said.
Abdul Latif Sheikh, president of Aricha Ghat Merchants' Association, said, "There are about 1,200 shops in the Aricha Ferry Ghat area. In the past, these shops used to do very good business but now the businesses are just surviving. If the ferry service starts in Aricha again, the businesses will revive."
The ferry ghat was shifted from Aricha to Paturia on 22 February, 2001 due to navigability problems on the rivers Padma and Jamuna.
From then on, the ferry terminals in Aricha and Kazirhat started losing their splendour. More than 13,000 small and large businesses around the two terminals were shut down.
However, the terminals are expected to be revived. The infrastructure development work, including the construction of the two terminals, is almost completed.
To restart the ferry service on the route, 1.2 million cubic meters of sand has been removed by dredging to create a new channel on the River Jamuna.
The government has so far spent Tk14 crore on the infrastructure development of the two terminals.
Some passengers of Pabna area in the Aricha launch ghat told The Business Standard that at present, launches and speedboats ply the Aricha-Kazirhat route.
However, this service is not available at night.
But, if there were ferries, they could travel 24 hours a day, they said.
The passengers said this is definitely good news for them. But still they doubt whether the ferry service will resume or not.
They said they heard about the service restarting on the route two years ago, but this did not happen.
Regarding the reopening of the ferry services, BIWTC Chairman Tajul Islam said due to lack of coordination between BIWTC and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) officials, the ferry service on Aricha-Kazirhat route was closed soon after it resumed a couple of years ago.
But this time their capacity has increased, so there is no possibility of it closing again like before, he said.
Dismissing the allegation of a lack of coordination between BIWTC and BIWTA officials, BIWTA Chairman Commodore Golam Sadeq said the ferry service could not be operated even after taking the initiative of restarting it two years ago as the dredging capacity was not good at that time.
"However, BIWTA now has 45 dredgers. The dredging capacity is good at present. Therefore, there is no chance of stopping the ferry service on the pretext of a navigability crisis," he said.
On 31 March, 1963, the ferry service was launched on the Aricha-Kazirhat route for the first time with a single ferry. Then the number of ferries increased to 28 on the route.
After the inauguration of the Jamuna Bridge in 1997, the importance of Aricha Ghat began to decline as transportation services, that traveled to and from the northern region of the country, started to use the bridge.