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Punitive Measures to Stop Ferry Crash into Padma Bridge

  • Pranab Kumar Panday
  • 25th August, 2021 04:45:30 PM
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In the last three months, several ferries have crashed onto different pillars of the Padma Bridge. Due to the rising water level in the Padma during the monsoon season and currents, the ferry drivers are failing to control the ferry's movement, hitting various pillars of the Padma Bridge. This may be because the Padma is a fast-flowing river, and in many cases, the ferry drivers may have trouble in controlling the ferry. However, it would not be right to dismiss any other causes at all. Whatever might be the causes, the ministry has not dealt with the issue successfully. In addition, various decisions are being taken by the ministry at different times to address this issue, from which it is clear that those in charge of the ministry are failing to determine a correct procedure.

We know that Padma Bridge is a huge achievement for Bangladesh. This is the dream project of the Hon'ble Prime Minister. The Bridge is associated with the emotions of the people of Bangladesh. When the World Bank stopped financing it due to alleged corruption conspiracies, most of the people of Bangladesh did not even dream that the Bangladesh government would build such a bridge with their own funds. However, the person who has always been adamant in her decision to build the bridge is Hon'ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who stood firm against all allegations and decided that Bangladesh will build the bridge with its own funds. It is worth mentioning that the allegations of corruption by the World Bank have not been substantiated. Subsequently, the World Bank authorities acknowledged this and later submitted proposals to the Government of Bangladesh for financing various projects under their own initiative. We know that domestic and international conspiracies were behind the World Bank's suspected corruption allegations.

The issue of frequent ferry collisions on the Padma Bridge pillars should have been seriously considered by the experts involved in the project long ago because we know that the only way of communication between Dhaka and the South was with boats and ferries. When the Padma Bridge project was designed, those who had conducted the project's pre-feasibility study should have kept in mind that after the construction of the bridge, accidents could happen if boats and ferries pass through the pillars of the bridge during the monsoon. As a result, such a situation would not have arisen if initiative had been taken to relocate the ferry wharves long ago. Authorities have no choice but to move the wharves quickly as the ferry crashed bridge pillars several times in the last two to three months. On the one hand, this will increase the financial expenditure of the government; on the other hand, those who use this route (who are mainly the people of the South) will have to undergo sufferings.

Attempts are being made to explain the issue of ferry collision with the pillar of Padma Bridge in different ways from different corners. Sometimes government spokespersons are trying to say that these incidents are intentional. We have already seen that the ferry drivers have been suspended. Just as this issue cannot be blown away, another issue that needs to be considered humanely is that such crashes may occur because the drivers may have failed to control the ferry. Again this may so happen due to the negligence of the ferry drivers.

However, we have already come to know through the opinion of a couple of experts who have tried to say that such accidents occur due to incompetence or unawareness of the drivers in many cases. Whatever might be the cause of the crashes, the people in charge of the bridge have to take the matter seriously as it is not a positive thing to repeatedly crash the pillars by a powerful vessel like a ferry. If this kind of incidents continues to take place, there is a possibility of a serious accident at any time.

The impact of crashes onto the pillars of the Bridge is just as dangerous for the bridge as it is for the people taking the ferry and various types of vehicles carried out by the ferry. We have already seen crashing some of the vehicles on the ferry when they hit the bridge's pillars. Several people were injured. However, more importantly, if the ferry sinks due to a collision with the bridge's pillar in this fast-flowing river, a terrible incident can happen. On the one hand, the vehicles on the ferry can be damaged, and at the same time, many lives can be lost if the ferry sinks in the middle of the fast-flowing Padma. If the ferry sinks, there will be no chance to protect the people and the bus, trucks or small cars on the ferry. This can lead to major accidents at any time.

We have already seen the Ministry of Shipping taking several decisions in this regard. Sometimes they have imposed restrictions on the movement of the ferries under the Padma Bridge. Again sometimes, they decided to allow the operation of ferries under the bridge under certain conditions. As a result, the incidents of ferry crash on the bridge did not stop. There is no alternative but to form an expert team from the ministry and relocate the ferry wharves. However, if this is the only option, the ministry should implement this decision very quickly. We know that the decision will take some time to be implemented as it involves huge financial allocations. However, the sooner this decision is implemented, the more positive it will be for the bridge, as it will be safer for those who will use the bridge.

We all need to keep in mind that the importance of the Padma Bridge is not limited to communication only. Beyond communication, its importance has expanded to the field of economy and regional communication. We know that the Padma Bridge will open a door for communication with the South and other parts of the country, including Dhaka. The products produced in the South will reach different parts of the country, including Dhaka, quickly. On the one hand, it will benefit traders and farmers, and on the other hand, it will have a huge positive impact on the consumers. Moreover, the shortening of the distance between the Mongla seaport and other parts of the country, including Dhaka, will have a major positive impact on regional trade and commerce.

Padma Bridge is the Prime Minister's dream project and is involved with the passion of Bangladeshis. Therefore, everyone should remain careful about any carelessness and conspiracies centring on this project. I have already mentioned that it is necessary to ensure the security of the Padma Bridge at any cost. We must reveal through a proper investigation whether the frequent crashes onto the bridge were just an accident or a deliberate move. The Ministry of Shipping and Communication will have to decide on this together. Procrastination in decision making can harm this bridge and all concerned.

We hope that the Padma Bridge will be inaugurated on the Independence Day next year and opened for public use. The inauguration carries a different meaning in the year next to the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh's independence and the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. This is a great achievement for us as well as the present government. Therefore, we all should take decisions responsibly and ensure that no damage is caused to the Padma Bridge.

The writer is a Professor of Public Administration,University of Rajshahi