Terming the commercial operation of vessels in the Sundarban’s rivers ‘a grave threat’, the National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCRSRR) urged the government on Wednesday that it should keep the Mongla-Ghashiakhali river route operational round the year, as it is the alternative to the Shela River that flows through Sundarban.
General Secretary of the committee Ashish Kumar Dey said this while presenting their report on a field visit to the Sundarbans, at the Mukhti Bhaban on Wednesday.
The committee also placed an 8-point demand for protecting the natural blessing Sundarban in the discussion programme.
Expressing their concern and anxiety, they alleged that lack of the co-ordination of Water Development board, Disaster Management and Relief Ministry and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) in implementing their project and development activities beside the channel would hamper the largest mangrove forest in the world.
They also alleged that government should conduct drive against the illegal shrimp enclosures and establishments of unplanned embankments which are two of the major causes for the destruction of the channel, a connector of some 234 canals in the Sundarbans.
The report said “If the maintenance to keep the channel operative thwarts, the marine vessels and ships would have to ply through the Shela River endangering the habitats of dolphins, Bengal Tigers and other wild animals.”
The dredging of the channel began on July 1, 2014 by the BIWTA to improve the navigability of rivers and canals so that large vessels could pass through it round-the-year under capital dredging project spending an amount of Tk 230 crore.
In 2015, it was opened for one way vessels operations for tidal period while Prime Minsiter Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the re-excavated Mongla-Ghashiakhali river route.
The international protocol route between India and Bangladesh was inaugurated by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in November 1972, to link Mongla Port, Khulna and Noapara with other parts of the country.
Professor of BUET DR. Mir Tarek Ali, former Director General of Bangladesh Water Resources Planning Organisation (WARPO) Engineer M Inamul Haque also spoke while Advisory Member of the Committee Mohamamd Shahid presided over the discussion.