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19 April 2024

Chilmari-Rowmari waterway

Commuters suffer as ferry service halted for 46 days

S M Rafi,Chilmari

Published: 08:09, 29 February 2024

Commuters suffer as ferry service halted for 46 days

The closure of ferry operations in Chilmari-Rowmari waterway disrupts the daily flow of 30-40 cargo vehicles destined for various parts of the country. Photo : Messenger

The Chilmari-Rowmari waterway on the Brahmaputra River in Chilmari of Kurigram has been devoid of ferry traffic for 46 consecutive days. 

The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTC) declared the cessation of ferry services due to the perilous condition of an aging box culvert in the Kutirchar area. This abrupt halt has sparked concerns among locals and stakeholders about the potential difficulties in river navigability and transportation logistics.

The Chilmari-Rowmari waterway has long been a vital artery for transportation, facilitating the movement of goods carriers and cargo vehicles under the auspices of BIWTA. However, the current decrease in Brahmaputra water levels has exacerbated navigational challenges, necessitating ongoing efforts by BIWTA to dredge channels and maintain accessibility. The closure of ferry operations disrupts the daily flow of 30-40 cargo vehicles destined for various parts of the country, including the capital, Dhaka.

The dangerous condition of the box culvert, located approximately 2 km from the Roumari ghat, poses a significant obstacle to transportation. Although light traffic and pedestrians are permitted to traverse the culvert cautiously, heavy vehicles remain prohibited, effectively halting ferry services. Despite the prolonged cessation of ferry operations, there has been a conspicuous absence of action from the local government engineering department to address the culvert's repair or replacement, exacerbating frustrations among affected stakeholders.

Local residents and beneficiaries lament the negligence of authorities, attributing the prolonged disruption to the failure to address the culvert's deteriorating condition promptly. Transport operators and traders bemoan the economic consequences of the ferry closure, with many trucks forced to remain idle or seek alternative routes, disrupting supply chains and commerce.
Efforts to mitigate the impact of the ferry closure include the deposition of sand beneath the bridge by authorities. However, stakeholders emphasize the urgent need for a permanent solution, advocating for the construction of an alternative road adjacent to the hazardous culvert. Ferry officials assert that operations will only resume once a viable resolution to the culvert issue is implemented.

The prolonged cessation of ferry operations along the Chilmari-Rowmari waterway underscores the broader challenges facing inland water transport in Bangladesh. With the Brahmaputra River serving as a vital lifeline for trade and commerce, disruptions like the closure of the Kutirchar culvert highlight vulnerabilities within the country's transportation infrastructure.

Local businesses reliant on the ferry route grapple with financial losses and logistical hurdles, while communities dependent on goods transported via the waterway face potential shortages and price fluctuations. Moreover, the absence of a functioning ferry service hampers the mobility of residents, impacting their access to essential services and economic opportunities.

The situation also highlights the need for improved coordination and communication between government agencies responsible for infrastructure maintenance and local communities. Transparent and efficient processes for identifying and addressing infrastructure vulnerabilities are crucial for minimizing disruptions and ensuring the resilience of transportation networks.