According to the report of Prothom Alo published on Saturday, 23 people were killed in a boat accident at Sadarghat thana in Dhaka in 2019 and 13 in 2016. And 37 people have died in the first six months of this year, 34 of whom were passengers of the launch Morning Bird that sank last Monday.
The accident took place when a large vessel named Mayur-2 hit Morning Bird from behind. However, not all accidents are recorded in the BIWTA register, especially those who drown in launches, sand-carrying trawlers and ships or in small boats at night and whose bodies float away after a couple of days. Nobody even knows how they died.
Ensuring accountability is a must. Organisations involved in the work of BIWTA, including the naval police and the Ship Owners’ Association, need to be held accountable. If it cannot be ensured, the BIWTA and above all the Ministry of Shipping will have to take the responsibility for the death of so many people. There is no scope to blame anyone else.
According to the law enforcement agencies, the main reason for the boat accidents in Sadarghat areas is the negligence of the boatmen. The locals cross the river in small boats to go to Keranganj. About five hundred boats ply from Babubazar to Postagola every day. In addition, there is a dockyard on the opposite side of the Sadarghat launch terminal where a number of launches stand idle. This disrupts navigation and often leads to fatal accidents.
The question is when will order be restored at Sadarghat? How much longer do we have to wait for this? Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) chairman commodore Golam Sadeq has said that effective steps will be taken to restore order at the launch terminal within a week. He also said that he would take initiative to remove the ferries, expand the launch terminal and increase the number of pontoons.
Initiatives to stop the movement of small boats in the Sadarghat area have been taken more than once in the past but could not be implemented. We have to make sure that there will be an alternative for people to cross Buriganga. It will be sustainable if initiatives are taken to restore order under a specific plan.