Meghna-Ghashiakhali channel thrives again as vessels start plying

Meghna-Ghashiakhali channel thrives again as vessels start plying

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Shipping though the Meghna-Ghashiakhali channel of the Kumarkhali River thrives again as the authorities are allowing a limited number of vessels to ply the route during high tides on an experimental basis, one month ahead of the formal reopening of the long-abandoned river route.The BIWTA on July 1 last year started the dredging of a 22-km stretch of the 31-km-long Mongla-Ghashiakhali channel, which lost the navigability three and a half years back, under a Tk-250 crore project.Though the formal reopening of the channel was slated for June, the authorities are now allowing a limited number of vessels which are upto eight metres in depth. In three days’ time from Wednesday till Friday, more than 60 ships and cargoes have crossed the channel, according to BIWTA.As the partial re-excavation of the channel has already been completed, tidal flows are making their ways into the channel even during the low tides, our UNB correspondent found during a recent visit to the area.The people of Rampal Ghat area used to cross the Kumarkhali River on foot just three months ago as the channel had dried out of water due to siltation, but over the last few days small scale navigation is taking place as the water was flowing in the channel even during the low tides, Delwar Hossain, a boatman at Rampal Ghat, told the UNB correspondent.The reappearance of the tides into the river has brought fresh hopes among the people of the area as it also brings prospects of regeneration in the local fisheries and agriculture, he said.The re-excavation of the channel will also relieve the local people from the water stagnation that they have been enduring over the last couple of years during the rainy season.Most importantly, the reopening of the Meghna-Ghashiakhali channel will enable the authorities to stop the plying of commercial vessels though the alternative routes inside the Sundarbans that pose a huge threat to the wildlife there.Talking to UNB, BIWTA chairman Commodore M Mozammel Haque said so far they have excavated about 50 lakh cubic metres of silts from the channel while the ultimate target is to excavate about one crore cubic metres.As the dredging is going on, the channel has already become fit for limited plying of vessels and the BIWTA has decided to allow limited shipping along the channel on an experimental basis.The channel will re-excavated up to 120 feet in the breadth and 10 feet in the depth instead of the earlier target of excavating a channel up to 320 feet in the breadth and 13 feet in the depth.However, local people noted that some more efforts will be needed to maintain the navigability of the channel that include removal of the mounds at the mouths of many canals linked to it and excavating the silted up canals to ensure the free flow of water and silt flow through them.The dredging of the silted up canals are taking place only nominal. The canals need be dug deeper than the depth maintained in the current excavation as it will not bring any water flow to the canals, they observed.So far, the administration has identified 32 canals – 13 in Rampal upazila and 19 in Mongla upazila – needing the excavation, he added.Earlier in December, the local administration launched a drive for removing illegal embankments and mounds built on the mouths of the canals along the Mongla-Ghashiakhali channel in the Kumarkhali River.
The mounds or embankments had been illegally built by influential quarters for shrimp farming through the obstruction of the natural water flow from the river.The authorities took the initiatives as part of a move to make the Mongla-Ghashiakhali channel navigable again so that commercial shipping through the alternative channels inside the Sundarbans could be stopped.The efforts were revamped after the recent oil spillage from a crashed oil tanker in the Shela River of the Sundarbans and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered the authorities for quick restoration of the older Mongla-Ghashiakhali route.UNB, Bagerhat

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