Take responsibility for river accidents

Ensure accountability and address root causes behind avoidable accidents

river sand

The government must take responsibility for improving the poor state of passenger safety on our rivers.

At least 13 people died in Wednesday’s two river capsizes on the Buriganga and Meghna rivers, which both appear to have been caused by collisions with sand-carrying vessels.

The anguish endured by the victims and their families is made worse by the fact that such tragedies are so commonplace.

In the last 40 years, over 4,500 people have died in hundreds of river accidents. It is imperative the government stop  accepting the lax regard for safety rules and negligence which underlies so many of these accidents.

In both of Wednesday’s capsizes, authorities were uncertain of the number of passengers aboard each vessel, indicating, once again, a lack of enforcement of basic safety regulations. It is not sufficient for authorities to summarily provide nominal compensation to families. Full investigations must be made to determine the causes of each accident, as a precursor to taking concrete steps to protect peoples’ lives on the nation’s waterways.

Ensuring proper punishment for negligence and recklessness can be a start, but it needs to backed by proper enforcement of rules that put safety first.

Requiring launch operators to hold proper insurance policies for carrying passengers would incentivise insurers and vessel owners to improve maintenance and address the poor training and corruption which institutionalises reckless practices.

The government and BIWTA have a duty to ensure accountability for avoidable accidents and deaths on our rivers. They must tackle the root causes and put safety first.

Source: Dhaka Tribune

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