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Govt plans to turn 10,000km river ways navigable

Says State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, laying stress on sustainable dredging of rivers

  • Special Correspondent
  • 1 August, 2021 12:00 AM
  • Print news

The government is working to make 10,000 kilometres inland river ways navigable as per its delta plan, said State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury.

He said the capacity of the Mongla port has been increased manifold, which reduces the pressures on Chittagong seaport.

“We have limitations and challenges too. But we have to manage our rivers through an efficient dredging system. The river ways are our natural assets,” the state minister said at a webinar on Saturday.

Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) organized the webinar titled “Sustainable River Dredging: Challenges and Way Forward.”

Khalid Mahmud said, “The government is relentlessly working on sustainable river dredging both in forms of capital and maintenance dredging. Thirty-five more will be procured soon.”

According to the delta plan, the government will develop the country’s riverine system improving their navigability.

He invited more private investments under the public-private partnership project (PPP) system.  

Former president of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) Md. Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin called for better coordination among the stakeholders like the BIWTA, Water Development Board, ministry and private sector.

According to him, unplanned dredging might event kill the rivers instead of saving them.

He laid stress on expansion of green transportation as a cheaper, safer and faster mode.

Mohiuddin urged the government to reduce tax and VAT on dredging machineries and equipment.

He called upon to remove inconsistencies in policies to build confidence among the private sector investors and a disciplined tender system.

Senior Secretary at the Ministry of Water Resources Kabir Bin Anwar emphasised the need to develop a holistic approach for a sustainable maritime system. “We need 500 dredgers, but we now have only 150-156 dredgers,” he said.

“The government has taken a number of projects to excavate different water bodies including rivers for their better navigability,” he said.

Professor Ainun Nishat, an eminent expert on river system, presented the keynote paper.

He emphasised that the dredging should be done in a sustainable manner as the rivers not only carry water but also life.

DCCI president Rizwan Rahman said, “It is high time to improve the waterways for the sake of the country’s economy.”

He identified lack of maintenance, weakening upstream flow and human interventions as some of the common factors responsible for the declining navigability of rivers.

Abu Saleh Khan, executive director at the Institute of Water Modelling (IWM), called for training of dredgers for skill development and capacity building.

He also stressed the need for a post-dredging evaluation system.  M A Jabbar, managing director of DBL Group, said lack of transparency, planning, knowledge sharing issues and implementation are some of the major challenges, which need a long-term strategy.

Robert Hennessy, vice president of Group Civil Engineering, PSA International Pte Ltd. said the river networks in Bangladesh are still an untapped asset for the country.

“River ways are cost effective, cheaper and it reduces pressure on land roads. Bangladesh needs adequate sustainable capacity for larger vessels to come into the waterways,” Hennessy said.

Commodore Golam Sadeque, chairman of BIWTA, said, government will establish a training institute in Narayanganj.

According to him, at least 1.5 percent of GDP allocation in budget will bring better outcome in the sector. The current allocation is 0.4 percent of the GDP.

DCCI senior vice president N K A Mobin, FCS, FCA, director Khairul Majid Mahmud and managing director of Energypac Ltd. and DCCI Convener Nurul Akter also spoke in the webinar.