State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury officially inaugurated the route's ferry service on Saturday morning
About 20 years after the route was closed due to a navigability crisis, the ferry service between Kazirhat Ghat in Pabna and Aricha Ghat in Manikganj has resumed, bringing a wave of joy among the locals.
In the meantime, the infrastructure development work, including the terminals of the two ghats (flights of steps leading down to a river), is almost complete.
State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury officially inaugurated the ferry service of the Aricha-Kazirhat route on Saturday morning when Manikganj 1 MP AM Naimur Rahman Durjoy and many others were also present.
The ferry service was shifted from Aricha to Paturia on 22 February, 2001 to reduce the navigability crisis and distance of the Padma and the Jamuna. From then on, hundreds of small and large businesses shut down. With the commencement of the ferry service, the locals hope the businesses will revive.
A couple of years ago, an initiative was taken to operate ferries on this route. However, due to the lack of coordination between Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) officials, regarding dredging, the initiative was not successful. This time dredging capacity has been increased and there is no chance of it being closed like before, said BIWTC Chairman Tajul Islam.
Twelve lakh cubic metres of sand have been removed using five dredgers to create a new channel on the River Jamuna to start the ferry service on the route. The government has so far spent Tk14 crore on the construction of: pontoons, beacon lamps, marque lamps, and related infrastructure development on both sides of the river.
Dismissing the lack of coordination between BIWTC and BIWTA officials, BIWTA Chairman Commodore Golam Sadeq said the ferry service was halted even after taking initiatives to run ferries because of the lack of dredging capacity.
"However, BIWTA now has 45 dredgers. Now the dredging capacity is good. Therefore, there is no chance of stopping the ferry service on the pretext of a navigability crisis," he added.
Three ferries have started carrying passenger vehicles, general passengers and freight vehicles. The number of ferries will increase if the number of passengers and vehicles increases, said BIWTC Aricha Office (Marine Division) AGM Abdus Sattar.
Some passengers at the Aricha Launch ghat area said at present, launches and speedboats are plying the Aricha-Kazirhat route but they are closed at night. If the ferries start plying the route, they can travel at any hour.
However, they also said the ferry service was supposed to start once in the past but did not run. Therefore, the passengers sought the intervention of the authorities concerned so that the initiative is implemented this time.
Abdul Latif Sheikh, president of Aricha Ghat Merchant Association, said there are about 1,200 shops in the Aricha Ferry Ghat area. At one time, these business establishments were busy with sales, but now the business situation is very fragile. With the resumption of ferry services in Aricha, the sales are expected to increase.
On 31 March, 1963, a ferry named Karnafuli started on the Aricha-Kazirhat route. Then 28 ferries, big and small, were added to that route. After the inauguration of the Jamuna Bridge in 1997, the importance of Aricha Ghat began to decline.
The ferry service was shifted from Aricha to Paturia on 22 February, 2001 to reduce the navigability crisis and distance of the Padma-Jamuna. The ferry service on the Aricha-Kazirhat route stopped on 15 November, 2002.