CHANDPUR: Hundreds of people including students and traders have been suffering a lot due to lack of pontoons at four launch terminals on the banks of the Meghna River under Haimchar upazila of Chandpur district.
Locals have alleged that the terminals have long been running without pontoons, causing immense sufferings to people. The situation gets worse during the rainy, summer and winter seasons when passengers face severe difficulty in getting down and getting on launches.
Everyday, five to six launches are plying from Char Bhairobi via Haimchar ghat, Telirmore ghat and Noyahat (Katakhali) ghat, Chandpur ghat and Sadarghat in Dhaka.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) had a pontoon at Telirmore ghat adjacent to Haimchar Govt College and Upazila Complex in 1998, but it sank in the river years ago after water leaked into it. Then the pontoon was salvaged and taken to the dockyard for repair. But it has not been set up yet.
Alam Sarder, a resident of the area, said, "The terminal had a pontoon many years ago. It was taken to the dockyard for repair. But it is yet to come back."
Sharif Gazi, another resident of the area, said, "Noyahat ghat (Katakhali) belongs to BIWTA, but this ghat has no pontoon for the last 13/14 years."
"Except Noyahat ghat, other three ghats belong to upazila parishad. No ghats have any facilities at all like drinking water, washroom, seating arrangement for passengers. So, patients and elderly people have to face problems at day and night for want of security and lighting facilities," he added.
As most people of the upazila live in char areas they have no alternative but to travel by launch to go to Dhaka via Chandpur ghat at cheaper rate.
Traders have to face problems too to load betel leaf and unload goods and commodities from Dhaka. Not only the people of Haimchar, but also the people of neighbouring Faridganj and Roypur upazilas use Telirmore ghat and take the Haimchar-Chandpur-Dhaka river route with less fare for going to Chandpur and Dhaka.
When contacted, upazila chairman Noor Hossain Patwary said, "We are trying our best to set up pontoons at these launch ghats as soon as possible for mitigating sufferings of the people."
Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni, MP, has recently sent DO letters to the authorities concerned of BIWTA to arrange pontoons. But no pontoon has been set up yet.
Kaiserul Islam, deputy director at BIWTA, Chandpur, said, "We have visited the launch terminals recently. A pontoon will be installed at Noyahat ghat very soon to help passengers get on and get down launches and load and unload goods."
"Three other terminals belong to upazila parishad. The process of handing over the terminals to BIWTA by Haimchar Upazila Parishad is going on. For this reason, setting up of pontoons at these ghats has been delayed," he added.