Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is to ceremonially declare open the Mongla-Ghasiakhali Channel through a video conference from her Gonobhaban residence on Thursday, said a press release of the Shipping Ministry.
She will also inaugurate 11 newly procured dredgers. Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, Shipping Secretary Ashok Madhab Roy and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) Chairman Commodore M Mozammel Haque would be present at Bagerhat point.
Earlier, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority BIWTA reopened the 31 kilometers long channel on 4th October after months of dredging. The Shipping Ministry said about 62.12 lakh cubic meters soil was removed from the channel to make it operational. The channel will help carry imported goods in large vessels from the sea to Mongla Port.
With the reopening of this alternative waterway, hope for keeping Sundarban’s Shela river free from shipping and navigation flickers again.
The Sela river, which runs through the sanctuaries for endangered Irrawaddy and Ganges river dolphin and along the northern edge of the Sundarban East Wildlife Sanctuary, has been under the spotlight since December 9, 2014, when a wrecked tanker released approximately 94,000 gallons (78,271 imperial gallons) of heavy fuel.
The route through Shela was immediately shut, only to reopen after a few days due to the necessity of shipping.
But In the face of huge domestic and international pressure, the government directed BIWTA to reopen the Ghasikahli channel. After initial dredging works, BIWTA had first reopened the channel cargo vessels having 8 feet draft on May 6, 2015.